Page last updated at 15:12 GMT, Friday, 6 February 2009

Accused 'cut off victim's head'

Jolanta Bledaite
Jolanta Bledaite's head was found by two sisters playing on the beach

A man accused of murdering a Lithuanian woman smothered her with a pillow before cutting off her head and putting it in a plastic bag, a court has heard.

Aleksandras Skirda, 20, who has already admitted killing Jolanta Bledaite, made the claim at the trial of Vitas Plytnykas, 41, who denies murder.

The court was also shown CCTV images of the pair on a bus to Arbroath with the plastic bag said to contain the head.

Skirda told the court they murdered Ms Bledaite, 35, to get her savings.

Ms Bledaite's head was found by two young sisters playing at the beach in Arbroath on 1 April, last year. Her hands were found by police soon after.

Skirda told the High Court in Edinburgh that he and Mr Plytnykas had been planning the murder for about two months before Ms Bledaite's death and had even bought the plastic bags to dispose of the remains in the sea at Arbroath.

You don't care. You have shown no remorse at any time, have you? You have never shed a tear and your only concern in this court today is for yourself
Paul McBride QC questioning Aleksandras Skirda

The trial heard that Ms Bledaite was reading when the two men burst into her room just before 0800 GMT on 29 March last year.

Skirda, who was Ms Bledaite's flat mate, said he wrapped gaffer tape round her hands and ankles while Mr Plytnykas held her.

Skirda told the court they made Ms Bledaite give them the Pin number of her bank card. She initially gave them the wrong information but handed over the correct number after being punched.

"Then Vitas put a pillow over her face," Skirda said, describing how he held the struggling woman's legs. After a few minutes she was not breathing.

"I felt bad," Skirda said.

The court heard that the two men cleared personal papers and possessions from Ms Bledaite's room, then dragged or carried the body to the bath.

Skirda said he brought knives from the kitchen and gave them to Mr Plytnykas.

He told the court: "Well, after that Vitas cut off her head."

Skirda also described how Mr Plytnykas pulled one arm from the bath and cut off Ms Bledaite's left hand before manoeuvring her body onto its side and severing the right hand.

He said he held the bag as Mr Plytnykas dropped the head inside.

They wanted to make the body hard to identify, he claimed.

The knives and personal papers were then thrown into the nearby South Esk river.

Skirda told the court that Ms Bledaite was going to be murdered whether she had given over her Pin number or not.

The court saw CCTV footage showing the pair on a bus heading for Arbroath with a Lidl bag.

Aleksandras Skirda at a previous court hearing
Aleksandras Skirda previously admitted killing Jolanta Bledaite

Skirda claimed they went to the harbour and found stones to put in the bags, then Mr Plytnykas threw them into the sea.

The two men then went shopping with Ms Bledaite's money, Mr Plytnykas buying a baby's pram, he said.

Questioned by defence QC Paul McBride, Skirda denied that he was a callous killer and a pathological liar trying to shift the blame onto Mr Plytnykas in a bid to cut his own sentence.

Mr McBride produced statements and records of interviews with police to show how Skirda had apparently changed his story.

And - just hours after Skirda had described Mr Plytnykas cutting off Jolanta Bledaite's head in the bathroom of her Brechin flat - Mr McBride questioned his evidence.

The lawyer said DNA tests on the knives police recovered from the South Esk river near the death flat excluded Mr Plytnykas.

Mr McBride said a young lady - a friend of Skirda's who trusted him - had been butchered and desecrated "for a few hundred quid"

All Skirda had got out of it was 700, a few taxi rides and a new pair of trainers.

Mr McBride challenged: "Some may think - it is a matter for others and not for me - in the way you have given your evidence you have displayed a callous indifference to the fate of this young lady.

"You don't care. You have shown no remorse at any time, have you? You have never shed a tear and your only concern in this court today is for yourself."

"No" replied Skirda, admitting he had told lies when first questioned, but insisting he had told the truth in court.

Mr McBride said Skirda had told police a pack of lies but remained perfectly calm - just as he had today: "During these interviews, lasting a number of days there was not a hint of remorse or regret"

Skirda replied: "I felt sorry for what happened."

The lawyer also produced a statement from 22 January 2009 in which Skirda described how he had held a pillow over Jolanta's face while Mr Plytnykas held her. The same satement gave a graphic account of the beheading.

"I took the knives into the bathroom," said Skirda. "Vitas was holding her hair. She was sitting in the bath.

"I used the bread knife to cut off her head - about five minutes it took me to cut off her head. I managed to cut through the bone."

He went on - in the statement - to tell how he used the same knife to saw through the bone of Jolanta's wrist.

But at other times - the trial heard - Skirda has claimed he was merely an onlooker.

"I am telling the truth now," he repeated.

Skirda is expected to face further questions when he returns to court on Monday when the trial is due to continue.

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