Page last updated at 17:05 GMT, Friday, 13 February 2009

Head-on-beach murderer convicted

CCTV footage
CCTV cameras caught them carrying a suitcase with the body inside

A convicted killer has been found guilty of the "callous" and "evil" murder of a Lithuanian woman whose head was discovered by children on a beach.

Vitas Plytnykas, 41, had denied torturing and killing Jolanta Bledaite before cutting up her body and throwing it in the sea at Arbroath in Angus.

The 35-year-old was made to give over her bank card's Pin number before she was smothered with a pillow last March.

Aleksandras Skirda, 20, previously admitted her murder.

Plytnykas, who is believed to be a former soldier, already has a conviction for manslaughter.

He was jailed in 2001 in Germany after stabbing a man to death in a fight about money.

Bledaite family spokeswoman Sue Smith

Jolanta was murdered at the flat she shared with fellow Lithuanian Skirda in Brechin on 29 March last year.

The High Court in Edinburgh heard that she had been killed for her savings. The men thought she had 10,000 in a bank account.

Jolanta's head was found on the beach at Arbroath on 1 April by two sisters, aged eight and 11, who had been playing at the shore. Police searching the sands found her hands soon afterwards.

Four days later, a suitcase containing Jolanta's body was pulled from Arbroath harbour by a police underwater search team.

During the trial, the jury was shown CCTV footage of Plytnykas and Skirda on a bus to Arbroath carrying a plastic Lidl bag which had Ms Bledaite's head and hands inside.

Jolanta Bledaite
Jolanta Bledaite's head and hands were found on a beach in Angus

They were also asked to watch further CCTV images of the pair dragging the suitcase containing Ms Bledaite's body through the streets of Arbroath.

The trial also heard from witnesses who claimed that the murder had been planned for months.

The witnesses told the court of conversations where Plytynykas talked of killing a woman for her money and cutting off her head.

There had even been car trips to find a place where a body could be dumped, the court heard.

However, there was no DNA at the murder scene in Brechin to link Plytnykas, who is also from Lithuania, to the killing.

But it took the jury of 10 women and five men less than two-and-a-half hours to find Plytynkas guilty of murder, theft and attempting to defeat the ends of justice.

Judge Lord Pentland told Plytnykas that he had conceived "a callous plan" to rob and murder Ms Bledaite.

"With chilling composure and determination you put the evil plan into effect," he said.

The plan had been carried out with military-style precision, added Lord Pentland.

The judge said: "Jolanta Bledaite must have died in a state of grave terror and distress.

Vitas Plytnykas
Vitas Plytnykas denied any involvement in Ms Bledaite's death

"It is clear her ordeal at your hands must have lasted a considerable time. She had done neither of you the slightest harm.

"She was entirely defenceless but you showed her no mercy."

Lord Pentland continued: "You have absolutely no respect for human life or decency. At no stage have you shown the slightest sign of remorse."

He called for background reports before deciding how long Plytnykas must spend in jail.

After the verdict, Arbroath woman Sue Smith spoke on behalf of Jolanta's family, saying that they feared the killers would be looking for revenge after being released from prison.

"They would like to thank the people who bravely gave evidence against the men involved," Ms Smith said.

"They also thank the friends of Jolanta and everyone who cared for Jolanta during her stay in the UK.

"The grandmother, Albina, also prays to God for the people that found her precious granddaughter's body and hopes that this terrible find will not affect their health."

Map showing Arbroath and Brechin

Det Insp Gordon Cryle from the murder investigation team spoke on behalf of Tayside Police.

"We are very satisfied with today's verdict upon what was undoubtedly one of the most horrific murders to have been committed in Angus in living memory," he said.

"Jolanta Bledaite's final moments of life must have been filled with terror and dread.

"These evil men showed her no mercy whatsoever, blinded by a callous determination to rob her of her hard-earned savings.

"From everything we have heard, Jolanta was a hard working, conscientious woman who arrived here with aspirations of making a better life for herself. By every account she was a good woman - an innocent victim far from home.

"Her killers preyed upon her and we were struck by the level of premeditation that they showed. This was not an impulsive crime, but one that was plotted over several weeks."

The Conservative party has raised questions about why Plytnykas was allowed into the UK.

Scottish Tory justice spokesman Bill Aitken said: "This is a truly tragic case, where a convicted killer is able to walk into this country with the authorities being completely unaware of his record.

"Indeed it is not clear that the Crown knew of this man's conviction at the time of his being indicted for this horrific crime."

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