Man who killed girl­friend in La­p­land has mur­der con­vic­tion over­turned

Fin­nish Court of Ap­peal re­duces mur­der to homi­cide charge

The Courier & Advertiser (Fife Edition) - - NEWS - DAVID MAC­DOUGALL

A for­mer sol­dier who killed his Fife girl­friend in a re­mote part of north­ern Fin­land has had his mur­der con­vic­tion over­turned on ap­peal.

The rul­ing in Karel Frybl’s favour came in a rare 2-1 split de­ci­sion from judges yes­ter­day at the La­p­land Court of Ap­peal in the Fin­nish city of Ro­vaniemi.

His mur­der con­vic­tion has been down­graded to homi­cide and he has been given an 11-year prison sen­tence.

Johannes Ahola, a lo­cal lawyer who has been fol­low­ing the case, said: “This means that it has been a dif­fi­cult case, be­cause it’s rather un­usual for the Ap­peals Court judges to vote. It hap­pens, but not re­ally of­ten.”

Frybl, from the Czech Repub­lic, con­fessed to killing his girl­friend Re­becca John­son, orig­i­nally from Burn­tis­land, at a trial last year.

He says he blacked out dur­ing the at­tack in December 2016 which left then 26-year-old Re­becca with more than 30 stab wounds to her head, chest, back, ab­domen and thigh.

The cou­ple had been work­ing as tour guides at a husky ranch and the only other per­son there at the time was col­league Joseph Pick­les, who heard Re­becca’s screams and wit­nessed Frybl stand­ing over her with a knife in his hands.

Frybl – who used the name Radek Ko­vac through­out his re­la­tion­ship with Re­becca – was orig­i­nally con­victed by the dis­trict court in Ro­vaniemi of mur­der and sen­tenced to life in prison.

In prac­tice this would have meant the killer spent 12 to 14 years be­hind bars.

The crux of the case rested on whether Frybl mur­dered Re­becca or whether it was a crime of homi­cide, which are dif­fer­ent le­gal def­i­ni­tions in Fin­nish law.

To se­cure a mur­der con­vic­tion, the pros­e­cu­tion would have to es­tab­lish a higher thresh­old. This could in­clude a de­gree of pre­med­i­ta­tion, if the vi­o­lence was par­tic­u­larly cruel or sus­tained, or if the vic­tim was tor­tured.

A panel of judges said in their official de­lib­er­a­tion that the fact Frybl con­tin­ued to stab Re­becca John­son af­ter Pick­les had in­ter­rupted the at­tack shows his de­ter­mi­na­tion to kill her.

But, the judges also wrote that Frybl didn’t de­lib­er­ately pro­long her death or take ac­tions to in­crease the pain.

“Although Frybl is un­doubt­edly con­sid­ered to be cruel, [the killing] can­not be con­sid­ered to be par­tic­u­larly cruel” in line with Fin­nish laws, the judges say.

“When think­ing about the case you have to al­ways re­mem­ber that the court is con­sid­er­ing it only on the ba­sis of crim­i­nal law, even if you feel as a lay­man that it has been a very cruel that’s not enough, it has to reach the level of mur­der ac­cord­ing to the law,” said Mr Ahola, who is not con­nected with the case.

The judges in the Ap­peals Court be­ing di­vided on whether Frybl should have his sen­tence re­duced leaves the door open for a pos­si­ble ap­peal to Fin­land’s Supreme Court, by Re­becca’s fam­ily or the pros­e­cu­tor.

In the mean­time Frybl will be in jail in Fin­land.

Karel Frybl at­tend­ing court, and Re­becca John­son, who was stabbed to death while work­ing at a husky ranch by her then­boyfriend, Frybl.

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