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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Welcome to my world, judge tells jury, after Latvian drink-drive killer is revealed as axe murderer no one knew about

-Used axe to 'garrot' drinking partner in Latvia before setting fire to house to hide evidence
-Moved to Boston, Lincolnshire, in 2010
-Then killed moped rider Valentina Planciunene, 37, while more than twice legal drink-drive limit
-Judge: 'On Valentine's Day, Darien Long said goodbye to his partner, Valentina. Thanks to you she never came back'

By Katherine Faulkner

Police had ‘no idea’ an Eastern European axe murderer was living in the country until he killed an innocent woman while drink-driving.

Latvian Intars Pless, 34, came to Britain last year after serving six years for murdering a friend.

But the authorities were unaware of his criminal past until February this year when he ran his car straight into Valentina Planciunene.

He then drove away from the scene – leaving the 37-year-old moped rider from Belarus to die on the road in Boston, Lincolnshire.

After Pless was convicted on Friday of causing death by dangerous driving, prosecutor Stuart Lody said: ‘The court may be astonished to know the British authorities had no way of knowing if a foreign national convicted of murder is in the country until that person is charged under an English law and they can do a check.

‘Lincolnshire Police had no idea a man such as this was living among the good people of Boston.’ But Judge Sean Morris replied: ‘I am not surprised.’ Turning to the jury at Lincoln Crown Court, he said: ‘Members of the jury, welcome to our world.’

Miss Planciunene left for work on her moped in the early hours of February 15 after celebrating Valentine’s Day with her British partner of two years, Darien Long.

The court heard that Miss Planciunene took safety very seriously and had been wearing a white helmet and a fluorescent yellow coat.

She was knocked into an oncoming people carrier by Pless, who was driving while two-and-a-half times over the limit after drinking whisky all night.

Victim: Valentina Planciunene, 37, was on her way to work on Valentine's Day when she was killed by Pless while he was driving at more than twice the legal limit

A year earlier, Pless had been released from a Latvian prison after serving time for his murderous attack on a drinking companion.

He slashed the man with an axe, fatally slicing through his jugular vein, then tried to destroy the evidence by setting fire to the house where the crime was committed.

Previously, he had been sentenced to three years’ jail for a serious theft in Latvia. But despite these offences, as an EU national he was able to come to the UK with only minimal checks.

The jury heard Miss Planciunene, who came to the UK from Belarus four years ago, was riding her 125cc bike to her job at a local food processing factory when Pless's car knocked her into the path of an oncoming people carrier.

‘The driver had no time to take avoiding action.’ Although Pless stopped his car a short distance from the crash he then drove off after his passenger got out.

When Pless was arrested, he denied he had been driving. Police had to send officers to Latvia to eliminate as a suspect the man he claimed was behind the wheel.

Miss Planciunene had come to the UK from Belarus four years ago. She lived in Boston and worked long hours in a food processing plant.

After Pless was found guilty on Friday, Mr Long, 44, said: ‘She was my life. Not a day goes by without me thinking of her and missing her.’

Pless, who faces up to 14 years in prison, will be sentenced at a later date. After remanding him in custody, Judge Morris said: ‘I will be recommending the deportation of this man.’

The ‘free movement’ directive means it is virtually impossible to stop EU citizens with criminal convictions from entering Britain.

The policy – which was agreed by Labour in 2004 – means that anyone from the EU has the freedom to travel to the UK without the same stringent tests applied those from other countries.

A UK Border Agency spokesman said: ‘The onus for flagging someone’s criminal history lies with the police in their home country. We would then use this information to decide whether they should be allowed into the UK.’



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