The murder mystery with no body

For most of the investigation into Ermatati Rodgers' disappearance, police had suspected Polish dairy worker Lukasz Reszpondek of murdering her and burying her body.

Ever since the 41-year-old divorcee, known locally as Tati, vanished from her Wrexham flat in January 2008, leaving her money, clothes and passport behind, he had been their prime suspect as he had been the last person to see her alive.

But although officers from North Wales Police believed Indonesia-born Ms Rodgers had been killed by her colleague - and alleged lover - crucially, they had no body, no confession and no obvious motive.

Reszpondek was interviewed by police on a large number of occasions and was arrested on suspicion of murder and held for three days. But he continually denied being involved.

What followed was a murder investigation that relied heavily on undercover surveillance, media appeals and old fashioned detective work.

Officers believed 28-year-old Reszpondek, who was a married father-of-two, had started a relationship with Ms Rodgers.

They met in the summer of 2004 while working at Dairycrest, Wrexham, Reszpondek's wife remained in Poland.
Police at field
Police dug up fields on the Erddig estate looking for the body

At the trial at Mold Crown Court, the prosecution alleged that he had lost his temper and strangled her "against a background of the emotional and conflicting demands of the eternal triangle of a wife and another woman".

Despite public appeals, a £100,000 reward for information and an appearance on the BBC's Crimewatch programme, officers still did not have enough evidence to charge Reszpondek.

As Det Ch Insp Wayne Joes said: "We had got so far with the investigation, all we really needed to do was find the body."

But by August last year they strongly suspected he had buried her body in a field on the Erddig estate beyond the former Bersham Colliery workings near his home in Rhostyllen, Wrexham.

They set up nine secret cameras in the countryside as part of the surveillance operation which recorded his car being driven slowly in the lanes near the burial spot on a number of occasions.

It later emerged that he had placed the area under his "favourites" on his car satellite navigation system and named it "Tt".

His trial was told that when police began digging in the surrounding fields looking for her body, he "made the error of taking the bait".

"The defendant watched the police looking for the body from the top of a nearby slag heap, hiding in bushes, wearing camouflage clothing and using binoculars," prosecuting barrister Michael Chambers QC said.

"What he did not know was that the police were watching him, watching them."

By Sunday afternoon, 22 March, 2009, the police digging was getting close to the actual field which contained the body.

That night - 14 months after Ms Rodgers went missing - Reszpondek tried to move her body, fearing police were close to finding it.

However, it was more difficult than he anticipated and after about three hours he had to stop.
Ermatati Rodgers
Ermatati Rodgers and Lukasz Reszpondek met at work in a dairy

It was only at that stage that he went to Wrexham police station and told officers that Ms Rodgers had in fact collapsed at his home and died and that he had panicked and buried her.

A post-mortem examination showed no sign of any natural causes which would have explained her sudden death.

But it did find bruising and a fractured thyroid cartilage consistent with strangulation.

Further investigations showed that the day after Ms Rodgers went missing, Reszpondek bought a spade, gloves and other items including a large suitcase on his credit card.

The suitcase was a 135 liter lilac case which he bought from TJ Hughes after asking for their largest.

However, after he was initially interviewed by police soon after Ms Rodgers disappeared, he bought a duplicate spade and case, using £150 cash, to put police off the scent.

When questioned, he said that the spade and case he had bought were still at his flat.

'Misled police'

Police analysis of Mr Reszpondek's computer also found he accessed the Polish Wikipedia site soon after her disappearance searching for words including "gnicie" meaning decayed/putrefaction/rot and "saprophytic", meaning creatures that feast on dead bodies and organisms.

But despite all the evidence against him, Reszpondek continued to deny the murder throughout his trial, although he did admit to preventing Ms Rodgers' lawful burial.

Det Ch Insp Jones said it was typical of the lies Reszpondek had always told them.

"Lukasz Reszpondek portrayed himself as a friend of Ermatati Rodgers. He was asked formally on half a dozen occasions whether or not he was involved in her disappearance, whether there was an accident or anything," he said.

"On all those occasions he wither misled us or decided to go "no comment" in interview. He didn't assist us whatsoever in the investigation."

A jury has now decided he was not telling the truth - and the near-two year mystery of what happened to Ermatati Rodgers has finally been solved.

No comments: