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Friday, March 5, 1999 Published at 19:21 GMT


War crime defendant identified as killer

Anthony Sawoniuk arrives at court

A man has been telling the Old Bailey how, as a 12-year-old boy, he was made to bury the bodies of three Jews he saw shot during the Nazi occupation of Belarus.

George Eykyn reports from the Old Bailey
The court heard from Alexander Baglay, now 69, who alleged two Jewish men and a woman were killed by a policeman in his home town of Domachevo.

The prosecution alleges the officer was the former British Rail ticket collector, Anthony Sawoniuk, 77, who denies four wartime murders.

[ image: Alexander Baglay: Key prosecution witness]
Alexander Baglay: Key prosecution witness
Mr Baglay is a key witness in in the war crimes trial and is the first to say he saw Mr Sawoniuk actually kill.

He told the court he was nearing his 13th birthday when he and a friend were caught scavenging for food in the town's devastated Jewish ghetto, where nearly 3,000 people had already been massacred.

Speaking through an interpretor, Mr Baglay told the court how the policeman known as Andrusha led the two boys out of the town.

Mr Sawoniuk, of south east London, denies this was him, but at the time he was a policeman known as Andrusha.

Mr Baglay told the court: "We were crying, thinking we would be shot.

"Then we saw two Jews and a Jewish lady. We realised they would not be shooting us, but we would be actually burying them."

He said the three emaciated Jews had been found hiding in a cellar and were waiting under guard beside a freshly dug pit.

Lined up and shot

The witness recalled how Andrusha told them to undress, lined them up above the pit, and shot each of them in the back of the head.

At the same time, the court heard, he pushed each of them forward with his knee so that they fell into the hole.

Mr Baglay said he and his friend were then ordered to bury the three bodies.

In the court, Mr Sawoniuk shook his head as Andrusha was held responsible for every stage of the killings.

His lawyer, William Clegg, QC, suggested to the witness that so much time had passed he might be mistaken.

"No," said Mr Baglay. "I saw it with my own eyes, I remember it beautifully."

Mr Sawoniuk is not alleged to have had any part in the massacre of nearly 3,000 Jews but is accused of four murders in round-up operations that followed.

The prosecution says he collaborated with the Nazis, leading search-and-kill squads to hunt down Jews.

He denies all charges. The trial continues.

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