"Predator and prey move in silent gestures, on the seductive dance of death, in the shadows cast by the vultures of the night."
It was the 31st of January 2019. A Thursday. Twenty one year old Libby Squire was out with friends in Hull, East Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom. She didn't want to go out that night as she had a lecture at the University of Hull early the next morning but her friends asked her to go and she didn't want to let them down. Libby lived in shared accommodation close to the University. She was a Philosophy student.
Libby was in touch with her boyfriend James Pye throughout the evening and the last text message he received from her was at 10.30 pm that night. The next day, the 1st of February, James, Libby's friends and her family tried to contact Libby but nobody heard from her. They went to her house and she wasn't there.
Police spoke to Libby's friends and discovered that Libby wasn't with them when they left the club that night. Her friends told police that Libby was refused entry into the Welly nightclub in Hull as the security men on the door believed she was drunk. Her friends paid for a cab to drop her back to her house on Wellesley Avenue.
Police searched the area and found Libby's house keys in a neighbor's garden. They obtained CCTV footage from the area and spoke to a number of witnesses. They were able to establish that Libby made it back home in the cab but when she got out of the cab, she walked down the street and did not enter the house.
Due to details obtained from the CCTV footage and witness statements, police were following a definite line of inquiry into Libby's disappearance and believed they knew who was responsible for Libby's disappearance but they did not know where she was. Seven weeks after she was reported missing, Libby's body was found in the Humber Estuary, between Spurn Point and Grimsby.
Police arrested a man, twenty six year old Pawel Relowicz. They had questioned him a few days after Libby was first reported missing but he was released on that occasion. Pawel was from Poland but lived in Hull with his wife and two young children and worked as a butcher for Karro Foods in Malton, North Yorkshire. He told police that he saw Libby crying in the street and wanted to help so he offered to give her a lift home. But he claimed that he dropped her off near some playing fields because she was going to be sick and that was the last time he saw her. He told police:
"I've got nothing to hide, check the cameras."
They did. And he was charged with rape and murder.
Pawel pleaded not guilty to the charges.
It was the Prosecution's case that Libby returned home that night and was in an extremely vulnerable state. It was a freezing cold night, Libby was alone, drunk and dropped her house keys in her neighbor's garden. The Prosecutor told the Court that Libby was likely hypothermic and in deep distress at that point:
"She had lost her house keys, she was crying, she had fallen repeatedly to the floor as she tried to walk."
A number of witnesses encountered Libby and saw first hand the distressed state she was in that night.
Jurors heard from a series of witnesses who saw or spoke to Libby after the cab dropped her off outside her house. The Court heard that a student, Jorge Thompson, saw Libby get out of the cab and she "fell over face flat and was on the ground for 10 seconds and was stumbling everywhere and struggling to walk."
Libby's neighbors, students Hannah Wright and Emma Halshaw, also saw Libby after she got out of the cab. They heard her "crying and sobbing" outside the house and said that they invited her inside but Libby did not go inside.
Roland Jacobs and Alan Jones testified that they stopped their car when they were driving home after a darts match as they saw Libby on the ground and approached her to check if she needed help. Roland said Libby had been "mumbling" and it was difficult to understand what she was saying. At one point, she asked him to come lay down with her. When Libby asked him for a hug, he refused and she swore at him. They spent around ten minutes trying to help her but felt they could do nothing more so left.
Another witness, Lorna Allen, described Libby as "lying on the floor and crying and screaming" near a bus stop. That was just before midnight on the 31st of January. She testified:
"She was slurring her words and talking to herself and she seemed very drunk."
The Court heard that while Libby was walking around the street and in distress, Pawel was driving around the area looking for an opportunity. It was their case that Pawel saw Libby just after midnight. The Jury was shown footage police obtained from CCTV in the area of his silver Vauxhall Astra driving around, sometimes in circles.
The Prosecution told the Court that they believed Pawel was driving around that night looking for a victim to "to spy on, to masturbate at". The Jury heard about Pawel's past and how he had committed a number of sexually motivated burglaries in the months leading up to Libby's disappearance and kept some of the items he had stolen as trophies. Police found underwear and sex toys he stole from women after they arrested him in relation to Libby's murder. A bag containing the sex toys, women's underwear and photographs of young women were found in his car. The Court heard that when police asked him about the bag, he initially said that he did not know about it and then that he had forgotten about it and didn't know how it got there or how long it was there for. Police also found halloween masks, one of a clown's face and one of a Scream mask like the one in the Scream movies, in his car. Pawel told police that the masks were in the car as his wife told him they frightened the children.
In the year leading up to Libby's disappearance, Pawel exposed himself to women in public and watched them through windows.
The Jury heard that a female student saw a man's face looking in her window as she was getting dressed, his face was just inches from the window, and the incident frightened her. She identified that man as Pawel. Another woman also saw Pawel at her window. He was looking at her when she was having sex with her boyfriend. When her housemate returned later that night, she found a used condom hanging on the front door and women's underwear in the letterbox. Another victim said an unwrapped condom and a pair of women's underwear was left beside her child's toy.
Forensic Scientist Nicola Taylor testified and told the Jury that Pawel's DNA and bodily fluid were found on the women's underwear. She testified that this indicated he had intimate contact with the underwear and may have possibly worn them.
The Court heard that Libby got into Pawel's car after midnight and was driven to the Oak Road playing fields. There was CCTV footage of Libby getting into the car but no further footage of her after she got to the playing fields. It was their case that Pawel then raped Libby and put her, dead or dying, into the cold waters of the River Hull. They believed that Libby's body travelled out to sea from there.
Still from CCTV-Libby and Pawel
To support their case that Libby was raped at the playing fields, they called Sam Alford to testify. Sam lived close to the playing fields and testified that he heard a woman's "desperate screams" coming from the direction of the river. The Court heard that a man was then seen emerging from the darkness and running away. The Prosecution told the Court that they believed the woman screaming was Libby and the man seen running away was Pawel. Libby was not seen on any further CCTV footage after the playing fields. The Prosecution told the Jury that Pawel had scratches on his face and it was their case that they were caused by Libby as she fought for her life.
"that Libby was raped by a man whose entire motivation for coming into contact with her that night was to take her away from safety to a remote area well known to him and there to subject her to his uncontrollable sexual urges".
The Court heard that sperm cells matching Pawel's DNA profile were found in swabs taken from inside Libby's body.
The Prosecution told the Court that while there was no further CCTV footage of Libby after the playing fields, there was of Pawel. They obtained CCTV of Pawel alone in the middle of a street, after he had been at the playing fields with Libby, and he was performing a sex act upon himself and a condom found at the scene days later was a DNA profile match to Pawel.
The Court heard from Pawel's friend Darius Christen. He testified that Pawel told him that he offered a "girl at the bus stop" a lift home and she had "tried it on with him". His colleague Rafal Mrowczynski also gave evidence, saying Pawel had offered to take a girl home to her house but she was "acting strangely".When she started undressing in his car, Pawel said that he told her to get out.
Pawel's neighbor, Brian Thornton, also gave evidence on behalf of the Prosecution. He testified that he saw Pawel cleaning the mats of his car on the afternoon of the 1st of February. He thought that this was unusual as it was a "bitterly cold day" to clean a car.
The Court heard that Libby would have had a very limited ability to defend herself that night. Professor Charles Deakin testified and told the Jury that he believed Libby would have been:
"suffering from numb hands and fingers, her co-ordination would have been impaired, she is likely to have been unsteady on her feet, and likely to have felt tired."
Her judgement and balance would probably have also been "significantly impaired" due to alcohol and she would have been "vulnerable to a number of threats". He told the Court that her ability to run away from danger would have been limited.
In closing arguments, the Prosecutor reminded Jurors how Libby had been drunk and cold that night. Witnesses saw her in distress. She was seen crying, lying on the ground, shivering and in need of assistance. They asked the Jury to think about what happened after Libby got into Pawel's car that night. Was it likely that she decided to get out of the warm car and lie on the ground in the snow in the cold and have consensual sex with Pawel? The Prosecutor told the Jury :
"It is, we suggest in common sense, a nonsense proposition."
He went on to remind them of Pawel's past and that it was clear he was no knight in shining armor:
"He was looking for a woman to satisfy his problem, to satisfy his sexual urges."
Pawel said that he thought Libby may have taken something or that someone put something in her drink as she was behaving strangely. When he offered her a lift home, he said Libby gave him her hand and they walked to the car. He thought she felt better when they were inside the car as it was warm and she appeared to be a little more at ease. But he said that when he was driving , she made gestures that indicated that she wanted to vomit. According to his testimony, that was why Pawel stopped near the Oak Road playing fields.
Pawel told the Court that when he stopped the car, Libby tried to get out but fell and she kneeled in the snow and was crying. He said that when he drove away, Libby was walking on the pavement and he did not see her again after that.
When Pawel got home, he had a bath and watched a movie. He returned to the playing fields to make sure Libby was not lying somewhere. He did not see anything.
The Court heard that Libby had struggled with mental health issues in the past. A statement made by Libby's mother, Lisa Squire, was read out in Court referring to Libby's mental health issues which included an eating disorder, self-harming and depression. But Lisa said that her daughter was afraid of water and had been since she was a young child. She would not go near the swimming pool when they were on vacation and she was frightened of the dark. And she did not believe her daughter took her own life.
Libby Squire and her mother Lisa Squire
The Court heard extracts from some of Libby's medical records which confirmed her struggle with depression, anxiety and self harm.
The Court also heard that Libby had researched different ways that she could take her life and had suicidal thoughts which included "throwing herself in a river".
Pawel's own legal team described Pawel's behavior in the past as "so gross" and "extremely frightening". The Defense told the Court:
"How he has behaved, what he has done - it is utterly disgusting. Let me spell it out. He has violated homes; he has violated the intimate possessions of student girls; he has violated intimate moments."
But the Defense argued that there was "no evidence of any sort of violent attack" on Libby. Oliver Saxby QC, Pawel's attorney said that Pawel took advantage of Libby and lied and lied and lied but he did not rape or kill her. It was their case that she may have taken her own life by falling into the river.
In his closing statement, Oliver asked the Jury to consider if there was an innocent reason for his lies:
"Sometimes those who are not guilty lie."
He said that it was clear Pawel should not have left Libby on her own that night given the state she was in but argued that he may have lied about meeting her in order to protect his family.
Oliver said that the Prosecution had portrayed Pawel's actions in the past as evidence he was on a "frantic upward curve", one which could only get worse, and one which ended in murder. But the Prosecution could not say how Libby even died, let alone that she was murdered:
"There's not a shred of evidence he ever acted in any way even approaching rape and murder."
The Jury were asked to deliberate and they could not reach a unanimous decision so the Judge, Judge Mrs Justice Lambert, told the Jury of seven women and five men that she would accept majority verdicts of either 10-2 or 11-1. They found Pawel guilty of rape unanimously and guilty of murder by a majority verdict of 11-1.
After the conviction, Libby's mother, Lisa Squire, said:
"There are no words that could explain the torture of living without my Libby. Not only have I lost my first-born child with whom I had an amazing bond, but I've also lost the possibility of being a grandmother to her children. Knowing that in Libby's last hour of life she needed me but I wasn't there for her will haunt me for the rest of my life. Because of what happened that night to Libby, I now live in two worlds - one where I'm a mother, wife and employee, but then there is a dark and lonely world. In this world I long to die so I can be with my girl one more time."
The Court also heard from Libby's father Russ. He told the Court that he struggled to look at pictures of Libby since her death.
In sentencing, the Judge told Pawel that prior to Libby's murder:
"Your offending escalated, you grew increasingly emboldened, no doubt you were increasingly confident you would not and could not be caught. You watched these women, staring back at them brazenly even after they had spotted you."
The Judge told him she had no doubt his purpose was to conceal Libby's body and that he hoped her body would be washed out to sea and never found.
Pawel was sentenced to a minimum term of 27 years for murder and a concurrent 18 year term for rape. The Judge told him that he will serve his full sentence:
"A minimum term means what it says. Even after you have served that term, you will not be released unless and until the Parole Board decides that it is safe to do so. You may never be released. If you are, you will remain on license for the rest of your life and will be liable to recall if you commit any further offense or breach the conditions of your license."
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"The criminal justice system will take a hard look at what happened to Matthew Eappen. It is up to the rest of us to take an even harder look at who is minding our children."
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