Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Santa worker killer Karel Frybl to be given mental health check

Rebecca Johnson and Karel Frybl
Image caption The court heard Rebecca Johnson told a friend that she was in an abusive relationship with Karel Frybl

A Czech man who admits killing a Scottish tour guide in Lapland will be sent for psychiatric evaluation.

Karel Frybl denies murder, claiming he had a temporary mental breakdown when he stabbed Rebecca Johnson, from Fife.

After two days of testimony, the trial judge said the 36-year-old should be held in custody while mental health checks are carried out.

The court in Finland will decide later if he is guilty of homicide or the more serious charge of murder.

Ms Johnson, 26, was a member of a Santa Safari team which worked with a Christmas-themed tour operator.

She died after being stabbed 10 times in the chest on 4 December 2016. She had 30 other stabbing injuries across her body, and showed signs of defensive wounds on her hands.

Under Finnish law, a murder conviction carries a mandatory life sentence - which in practice means at least 12 years - but has to meet a legal threshold of being premeditated, or particularly brutal or sustained.

Prosecutor Juhani Maki told the court in in Rovaniemi that some of Ms Johnson's wounds were inflicted either when her back was turned to Mr Frybl as the attack began or when she was trying to escape from their cabin.

Image copyright Finnish courts
Image caption Prosecutors said the wounds on Ms Johnson's back could have been inflicted as she tried to escape

On Thursday the court heard from three witnesses.

The first, co-worker Caitlin Howard, was speaking to Ms Johnson on the phone at the time she was attacked.

Ms Howard told the court that Ms Johnson said she was in an abusive relationship and that Mr Frybl had kicked her in the stomach the night before.

"After she told me that in the phone, I heard three screams and the line went dead," she said.

A second witness also heard the three screams.

Husky sled guide Joe Pickles described how he was standing a few metres outside Ms Johnson and Mr Frybl's cabin on the morning of the attack in -30C weather.

He said: "I ran to the cabin and pulled open the door. I said 'Radek [Frybl] stop, stop.'

"Becky said: 'Joe, call an ambulance, he's stabbed me.'"

Image copyright Finnish courts
Image caption Screams were heard coming from the couple's cabin

A 30-minute recording of Mr Pickles' call to emergency services - when he sounded panicked and in fear of his life - was previously played in court.

When he went back to the cabin to check on Ms Johnson she was already dead.

A third witness, a local police officer, gave evidence by telephone and said that when he found Mr Frybl some hours later laying in the snow, he had injuries that were probably self-inflicted.

Mr Frybl has claimed that Ms Johnson stabbed him first.

In closing arguments, the state prosecutor told the court Mr Frybl had lied about Ms Johnson stabbing him.

He said the number of stab wounds and the ferocity of the attack meant Frybl should be sentenced for murder.

The couple had lived in Scotland before moving to the Arctic for seasonal work.

Ms Johnson, originally from Burntisland in Fife, was employed by Santa Safari which works with Oxford-based tour operator Transun Travel to organise Christmas-themed excursions in Lapland.

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