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Thursday, April 1, 1999 Published at 12:56 GMT 13:56 UK


Sawoniuk guilty of war crime

Sawoniuk: Under Scotland Yard investigation since 1994

Anthony Sawoniuk, 78, has been found guilty of murdering one unnamed Jewish woman in the UK's first full Nazi war crimes trial.

Sawoniuk, a retired railway worker, at first showed no emotion as the verdict was announced by the jury foreman. He then slumped back in his chair.

[ image: The Jewish cemetery near Domachevo]
The Jewish cemetery near Domachevo
The jury of eight men and three women is still considering a second murder charge on the third day of deliberations in the eight-week trial.

A witness had told the Old Bailey court he saw Sawoniuk, known then as "Andrusha", order three Jews - two men and a woman - to undress in front of an open grave.

Mr Baglay, who was 13 at the time, said: "The Jewess did not want to take off her underpants. She was 28 or 29.

The BBC's Jon Silverman reports from outside the Old Bailey
"When she refused, he threatened her with a truncheon. When she had undressed, they were lined up and shot. He shot them with his pistol in the back of the head.

"He was standing behind each of them and levered them into the pit by raising his knee."

Mr Baglay said he and a friend were then ordered to cover the bodies with earth.

Sawoniuk was originally subject to four charges of killing Jews in the village of Domachevo in Nazi-occupied Belarus in 1942.

The second charge still outstanding alleges Sawoniuk murdered another Jewess. A prosecution witness, Fedor Zan, told the court Mr Sawoniuk had mowed at least 15 women down with a submachine gun as they stood naked by a pit in Domachevo.

Earlier in the trial, two charges of murdering Jewish men were dropped by the judge at the Old Bailey due to flaws in the evidence.

The prosecution alleged that Sawoniuk led "search and kill" police squads which hunted down Jews trying to escape the holocaust of World War II.

He was "not only prepared to do the Nazis' bidding, but carried out their genocidal policy with enthusiasm", Sir John Nutting, QC, prosecuting had told the court.

[ image: Jury members visit the site in Belarus]
Jury members visit the site in Belarus
Sawoniuk, who arrived in the UK after the war, was remanded in custody in a prison hospital during the trial. The pensioner is half-blind, half-deaf and suffering from heart problems and diabetes.

In his own defence, he said his conscience was clear and that he was the victim of a conspiracy.

The former ticket collector from Bermondsey, south London, said he had been a friend of the Jews of Domachevo and blamed the killings on the Germans.

The trial created a number of legal precedents:

  • It was the first time a British jury had travelled abroad to see the scene of a crime.

  • Sawoniuk became the first UK citizen accused of war crimes to speak his own defence in a criminal court.

Sawoniuk first came to the attention of UK war crimes investigators in 1988 when his name was on a list of potential suspects handed to UK authorities by the Soviet Government.

He was one of 376 suspects investigated under the 1991 War crimes Act.

But it was not until 1994 that Scotland Yard began an inquiry into his wartime activities. He was first interviewed by police in April 1996 and was charged in September 1997.

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