Catherine Wells-Burr death: Three guilty of murder
- 7 June 2013
- From the section Somerset
A factory worker and his former partner have been found guilty of murdering his girlfriend in order to claim her six-figure life insurance policy.
Rafal Nowak, 31, smothered Catherine Wells-Burr, 23, as she slept at their home in Chard, Somerset, in September.
His ex-girlfriend Anna Lagwinowicz, 32, and her uncle Tadevsz Dmytryszyn, 38, then disposed of the body in Ms Wells-Burr's car before setting it on fire.
A jury at Bristol Crown Court also found Dmytryszyn guilty of murder.
Ms Wells-Burr's family wept, gasped and loudly exclaimed "yes" as the guilty verdicts were returned.
Nowak was convicted unanimously by the jury, while Lagwinowicz and Dmytryszyn were found guilty by majority verdicts.
The jury took more than 12 hours and 30 minutes to return the verdicts. The three, all Polish nationals, will be sentenced on Monday.
The court heard the murder was motivated by money and jealousy and was the result of months of secret meetings and phone calls between Nowak and Lagwinowicz.
Nowak, who also had a wife and child in Poland, had rekindled his relationship with his ex-girlfriend and was sleeping with her when he bought a home on Willow Way, in Chard, with Ms Wells-Burr.
Explicit dating websites
Ms Wells-Burr and Nowak, who appeared to be in a loving relationship, obtained life insurance worth £123,000 for both parties - naming each other as the sole beneficiary.
But in the following months Nowak and Lagwinowicz created an elaborate trail of false phone calls and texts - which were meant to show Ms Wells-Burr had gone to see a secret lover and had met her death at his hands.
Lagwinowicz also signed up to explicit dating websites pretending to be Ms Wells-Burr and created profiles on social media of fictional male admirers of the university graduate.
Nowak used a pillow from the couple's bed to smother her in the early hours of 12 September.
Her body was discovered by fire crews in her Ford Focus in a field in Ashill, Somerset later that morning.
The court heard Nowak had planned to murder her two days earlier but had been foiled when she was woken by a wrong-number mobile phone call.
After the verdict, Ms Wells-Burr's mother, Jayne, said outside court: "The hatred shown to her has truly shocked us and especially the hatred shown by Rafal Nowak, who was meant to have loved her, and we treated him like a son and a family member.
"Anna Lagwinowicz is devious, manipulative, calculating by her actions. Creating sickening false profiles of Catherine demonstrated this.
"These evil people have made us question our judgement of character and trust in people. We trust no-one."
The court heard Nowak had been convicted in Poland of assaulting his wife and moved to the UK to earn money to pay off a £6,500 debt.
Ms Well-Burr's father, Phil Wells-Burr, said he believed Nowak should not have been allowed into the UK.
Det Insp Simon Crisp, from Avon and Somerset Police, said: "This was a wicked crime committed against a bright and innocent young woman who had her whole life ahead of her.
"Nowak, Lagwinowocz and Dmytryszyn took both Catherine's and her family's future away from them on the night they carried out this calculated killing.
"They then tried to cover their tracks and misled us in a bid to get away with what they had done.
"Murder is a terrible crime but what makes this worse is the intricate planning that took place while Nowak pretended to care about Catherine - playing the doting boyfriend while plotting to take her life for a few thousand pounds.
"Their plan unravelled despite their best attempts to mislead us, and today they have been found guilty of Catherine's murder."