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Regina v. Onufrejczyk
English Court of Criminal Appeal
1 All E.R. 247 (1955)
Onufrejczyk (defendant) and Sykut co-owned a farm that was struggling financially. There was evidence that the two had been fighting about the administration of the farm and its future. Onufrejczyk wanted to buy out Sykut but did not have enough money. In mid-December, Sykut disappeared, and he was never found. Onufrejczyk was the last person known to have seen Sykut alive and was charged with Sykut’s murder. The prosecution (plaintiff) presented evidence that around the time of Sykut’s disappearance, Onufrejczyk told someone and wrote letters stating that Sykut had returned to his native Poland for two weeks. There is no other evidence that this occurred. At the same time, when asked about Sykut’s disappearance by law enforcement, Onufrejczyk told them that Sykut had been kidnapped on December 18. However, a sheriff had gone to the farm on the evening of December 18, and Onufrejczyk had told the sheriff that Sykut had gone to a doctor. There is no other evidence that Sykut actually went to this doctor. The prosecution also presented evidence that Onufrejczyk asked a friend to impersonate Sykut at one point during this time period. Finally, there was evidence that Sykut had taken a horse to a blacksmith on December 14. The blacksmith testified that Onufrejczyk later tried to convince him to say that Sykut had actually taken the horse on December 17—a date by which the prosecution claimed Sykut was dead. The trial court permitted the jury to convict Onufrejczyk based on this circumstantial evidence despite no body having been recovered. The jury did so. Onufrejczyk appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Lord Goddard, C.J.)
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