The Eva Rhodes Murder Case & The Hungarian Cover-up
On the 10 September 2008 Eva Rhodes, a British citizen, was brutally murdered at the Animal Sanctuary she had set up near Györ, Hungary. Her employee of one week, Csaba Augusztinyi, killed her, ransacked the property, dismembered and burnt her body, buried her remains and fled the scene. A woman helped him to escape, driving him to the station. They stayed in telephone contact. Nobody would know Eva had been murdered but for the determination of her family to find out what happened. Eva would simply have disappeared, another foreigner missing in Hungary.
Eva`s murder was pre-meditated. The real circumstances surrounding her murder was subject to a cover-up by Hungarian authorities. This is evident from the attitude and lack of investigation of the Györ Police; from the lack of response of the Hungarian Independent Police Complaints Board to a complaint about Police negligence and suppression of evidence; from biased trials in Györ as well as the Hungarian role at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The ECHR rejection of two cases brought against Hungary by the family demands investigation. In 2013 the UK conducted a thorough forensic examination on Eva's remains which revealed vital new evidence for the inquest at the Westminster Coroner's Court. This court fundamentally contradicted the decision of the Hungarian courts by providing new evidence in a 16 page forensic report by the internationally recognized forensic anthropologist Dr. G.Mackinnon contracted by the Westminster Coroner Dr. Fiona Wilcox.
Born in 1943 in Hungary, Eva and her family fled Soviet occupied communist-ruled Hungary following the suppression of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. Eva, a teenage refugee in Austria, studied at the Max Reinhardt Seminar acting school in Vienna. In the 60s Eva worked as a model and actress. She was part of London's counter culture - a set that included Eric Clapton, the writer John Michell, historian art dealer and writer Christopher Gibbs, interior decorator David Mlinaric and others
In 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono chose Evi to star in a controversial and highly acclaimed 75-minute black and white film called Rape, which depicted a woman being relentlessly pursued by a cameraman to symbolize the invasion of the camera in everyday life. Decades later Eva met Yoko Ono again during the screening and discussion of the film at The Vienna Film Festival and Yoko made a donation to Eva`s Animal Sanctuary. Through Eva's second marriage to an Englishman she became a British citizen. She lived in Suffolk and London, in Austria and in Italy. She spoke four languages.
In the early 90s, as a passionate activist for animal protection, she was confronted with such cruelty to animals during her travels in Hungary, recently emerged from its communist police state colours. With her daughter Sophie she felt impelled to stay and set up her animal rescue sanctuary Csizmaskandur (the Puss-in-Boots Trust) from here on known as the Sanctuary. She lived and worked in a backward area of the country near Györ where little had changed since the demise of communism. Her sanctuary provided rescue, medical help and re-homing for abused and abandoned animals.
Through her work Eva came to threaten the income of those running an alleged animal rescue organization in Györ "Emberek Az Allatokert (EAA), founded in the Socialist era with no infrastructure for animal rescue. Eva`s dedicated 24/7 animal rescue work caused people to divert their EAA donations to Eva`s Sanctuary. A local mayor nearby with his policeman, Horvath Zoltan Peter (HZP), came into conflict with her when the latter, known for his violence, broke into Eva`s property in 2002 and assaulted Eva and her daughter, Sophie. Eva and Sophie launched a complaint procedure against the Police for assault and breaking and entering, for which Sophie later won damages against the State of Hungary in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). However the Police deliberately sabotaged this complaint procedure by hijacking the case number and turning it into a charge by the Police against Eva and Sophie for using violence against a public official. Years of proceedings in the Györ courts between the Police and Eva and her daughter followed and these proceedings were ongoing at the time of Eva's murder. The charges against them had no legal basis; they were acquitted in a first trial but the acquittal was annulled, to the astonishment of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee; the subsequent application to the ECHR made by Sophie resulted in Hungary being found guilty of a breach of the convention and having to pay a fine of several thousand Euros in 2007.
At the same time in these years leading up to her murder Eva was subject to character assassination in the media and persecution in an attempt to drive her away, which would have rid EAA and the Police of the financial and judicial threat that Eva and her Sanctuary posed for them. After the annulment of the first trial a second trial was abandoned when the young judge resigned the case and left the judiciary. A hearing in the third trial against Eva and Sophie was set for August 2008. On 23rd August the court hearing was postponed since HZP did not attend, citing family problems, even though he was the plaintiff. It was clear the prosecution was likely to lose the case. This would have enabled Eva and Sophie to re-open the prosecution of their complaint against the Police, initiated in 2002 after the assault and blocked by the Police initiated court hearings since then. The local policeman HZP would have been exposed to at least a charge of assault and battery as well as perjury. In addition the Head of the Györ County Police would have been open to a charge of sabotaging the initial complaints against HZP and partners in 2002.
Eva was well known and respected for her animal welfare work in Hungary, where she had been instrumental in changing the law regarding animal welfare. She was about to receive her licence for the Sanctuary a second time, having returned it earlier. She was fearless and she was articulate in court. She had become a significant threat to the Police who were going to be exposed in the courts for corrupt practice. By 9 September 2008 (the day before she was murdered) Eva had information she wanted to disseminate. She made over 30 calls from her mobile, including to her lawyer and an RTL TV journalist for an interview on camera. She knew the journalist from previous interviews about her Sanctuary. She needed to discuss people, not animals, and said she was frightened and threatened. It seems most probable that Eva was killed by conspirators, not only because she had information to divulge, but because she was now a significant threat to persons about to be exposed in court for corrupt practice. Those already fearful of Eva exposing them at the forthcoming court hearing set for 2 October 2008 would have suffered serious financial and judicial consequences if Eva had won the case.
Tragically and suspiciously Eva was killed, between the two court hearings, on 10 September 2008. HZP, who had failed to appear in court, was never questioned during the murder inquiry or during the trials, despite formal requests by the family and their lawyers! Initially involved himself in the investigation of Eva's disappearance he was pensioned off by the Police shortly after Eva was murdered.
On 18 September Eva`s sister from Vienna, Judith Majlath (Director of the Austrian Section of the Nobel Peace Prize winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines), reported to the Györ Police that she could not contact Eva, asking them to go to the Sanctuary. They reported nothing suspicious from a blatantly evident crime scene. The next morning Judith traveled to Györ to find a horrifying scene at the Sanctuary. Eva had vanished, strangers were carting away her animals and local media and TV crews, invited by EAA, were all over the place. Eva`s office and house had been ransacked and her unlocked cars were in the courtyard with ignition keys inside. Crime had obviously been committed but no Police were in sight. Valuable forensic evidence was unprotected or destroyed.
Over the next 7 months the Györ Police refused to investigate any crime, ignoring the family`s plea to open a murder inquiry, despite the evidence. Deeply resentful of Sophie's success at the ECHR against Hungary and her receiving compensation, Györ Police and courts were already heavily biased and engaged in the on-going court proceedings against Eva and Sophie. Eva was to be treated as a criminal fleeing justice as opposed to being a victim of crime. A slanderous Police report of 22 September 2008 portrayed Eva as a criminal and allowed them to justify the lack of a criminal investigation. The Police hindered any real investigation, deliberately collecting statements from false witnesses hostile to Eva to blacken her character. They claimed she had left the country, saying therefore there was no reason to suspect any crime against her. The previous court case against Eva continued. In October, instead of opening a murder inquiry, the Police issued an arrest warrant for Eva, putting her on a "Wanted List" of criminals (www.police.hu). The Police actions in Eva's case were directed by Police General Arpad Szabadfi, who is to blame for the ineffective, disgraceful police investigation and the initial cover-up, which continued throughout the murder inquiry and the trials.
However, their unwilling and obstructive approach was counteracted by the family. Judith Majlath, previously unknown in Györ, demanded swift action and proper investigation from the Police, disclosing their hostility, deliberate inaction, negligence and unprofessionalism to the media. The family was convinced Eva was murdered. The Police refused to listen to them and other witnesses who were saying crime had been committed. Brutal Police hostility and suspicious hindrance with delaying tactics which obstructed the investigation forced Majlath to carry out her own investigations. She employed trained search dogs that signaled a dead person had been lying in Eva's Discovery Landrover. It is most likely that some of Eva`s torso/body parts, which are still missing, were transported in the Landrover, or later removed by the perpetrator(s). Police refused to impound the Landrover as evidence or do a thorough forensic investigation. Shortly before the murder trial the Landrover disappeared, towed away on a low-loader according to an eye witness. Majlath reported the theft to the police who had no interest in the Landrover ever being found. Clearly somebody was arranging for vital evidence to disappear.
There were inconsistencies in the Police approach to Eva's disappearance. While they accused Eva of being a criminal who had fled the country, they also ran an alibi investigation, making a pretence, while for 7 months denying any crime had occurred. They never closed off and protected the crime scene, ignored and lost evidence or failed to collect it. Important witnesses were not heard or were rejected, even manipulated; suspects like the local police man HZP were never questioned. Eva's entire possessions were stolen over time, thieves sometimes using lorries. Robberies were reported but not investigated. No arrests were made. The lack of Police investigation was noticeable. 'In hindsight the case should have never been left in the hands of the Györ police and the judiciary, clearly heavily biased against Eva,' said the family lawyer.
Due to the family`s pressure highlighting the unspeakable Police negligence and lack of investigation General Szabadfi, Chief of the Györ Police, publicly threatened Judith Majlath with legal action for criticizing the Györ Police and damaging its reputation, hoping thereby to intimidate her. In return Majlath involved politicians in the UK, Austria and Hungary and this attracted international media attention. Relentless pressure was exerted on the Police to open a murder inquiry.
Majlath's had been requesting a murder inquiry from the beginning and in early 2009 filed charges for murder against persons unknown which was rejected. Csaba Augusztinyi was wanted for motorbike theft by a neighbouring Police force before he took the job with Eva. In April, shortly after international pressure on the Police was increased through the involvement of Sir Malcolm Rifkindin the UK and reported by the media, Augusztinyi was arrested. Denying the murder at first, he confessed. Only then did the Police accept a crime had been committed and finally opened a murder inquiry on the day of the arrest. The Police continued "investigating" in their negligent and unprofessional manner.
Reading the inaccurate indictment prior to the First Trial Majlath saw that important witnesses, including herself, were not to be summoned by the Prosecution, despite her having sent to the Prosecutor a list of important witnesses and statements which she had found missing from the Police files. She did this to ensure they were available to the Prosecution and she explained the bias of the Police. The Prosecution exclusion of certain witnesses made it clear the trial would suppress evidence and be conducted by a court, biased as were the Police in their investigation. The cover-up continued in the courtroom.
In January 2010 Majlath made a complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Board (IPCB) about the gross negligence and intimidation by the Györ Police and its Chief General Arpad Szabadfi in Eva's murder case. The IPCB established some Police wrong-doing but the response received indicated the Board's lack of independence, competence and authority, making its real role questionable and irrelevant. The case filed at the Györ Court against the Police was quashed without even being dealt with in court. The lawyer who ran the case on Majlath`s behalf considered it unjust and unusual, and made an appeal which was rejected. This was another proof of injustice at the hands of the Györ judiciary. The lawyer returned his Power of Attorney.
The First Trial opened on 20 April 2010 and was flawed from the very start, when Sophie, next of kin (NOK), appealed unsuccessfully for the trial to be moved elsewhere due to the partiality and bias of the Court. This bias and partiality was then clearly manifested throughout the trial by a vindictive Judge and Prosecutor, in their cynicism, intimidation and manipulation, and their empathy for the murderer, rather than the victim and her family. Never allowed to give evidence, the family was also not allowed to be present at all hearings. All their requests submitted to the Court were rejected. The Judge had Sophie unjustifiably thrown out of court and fined; she was almost arrested. Majlath was effectively barred from the Court as a witness. Evidence was suppressed during the entire trial. Witnesses requested by the family and their lawyer, including all notified to the Prosecutor earlier, were not called. Anita D. Timar, the woman who helped Augusztinyi escape from the Sanctuary on the night of the murder, was not called to give evidence in the Court. Most unusually she was heard by the Judge alone, in her home. She had claimed she suffered panic attacks in a public court. The video material of the hearing was never released to the family or to the British government in spite of many requests. The cause of Eva's death was never proven. The Judge's version, based on the murderer's unchallenged story, went against the Hungarian forensic experts evidence in court. The murderer said he acted alone, killing Eva with "one punch in the face and one blow to the head". Ultimately this version was disproven by the evidence of the 16 page forensic report prepared for the Westminster Coroner's inquest by a British forensic anthropologist. This was to reveal vital facts and crucial new evidence after a thorough investigation of Eva's remains in the UK. The British findings undisputedly destroyed the Hungarian version of the cause of death.
During the trial the Judge portrayed the victim deplorably and conducted a form of "character assassination" against Eva, promoting mitigating circumstances for the murderer, who was given a lenient 10 year sentence. At one time it could have been 5 years, according to one of the lay-judges. Shocked by the travesty of justice she quit her job after the trial.
The role of the local Policeman HZP in her murder remains highly suspicious. It is a vital, uninvestigated open question. Involved in conflict with Eva since 2002, and in the current court case against her, her disappearance was to his advantage. Although it was known that he was violent and he had threatened to 'eliminate' Eva (the notarized witness statement was ignored by the police and the court ), he was never questioned. He was pensioned off within 3 months of the murder, under 40 years of age.
Prior to and during this trial Majlath was secretly in communication with one of the lay judges of the trial. She was therefore privy to information about internal discussions between the judges. The lay judge (co-signatory to the verdict) spoke about intimidation and abusive language used by presiding Judge Köszler against her, whenever she was questioning and contradicting him. Never before had she seen him behave so outrageously towards the victim and so obviously sympathetic towards the perpetrator. She wondered if he was acting on orders. She had never seen a trial like it, when a re-enactment was not ordered by the judge , when the family was denied any hearing, when the investigating Police were not summoned to the trial, when the Prosecutor behaved in a noticeably biased manner and the Judge manipulated proceedings and re-investigation was deliberately not ordered, when lack of evidence was so obvious. The lay judge was particularly shocked by the intimidation, mistreatment and unjustifiable fine (450,000 HUF) and near arrest of the NOK, for whispering to her translator. The lay judge believes in a cover up to this day and has encouraged Majlath not to give up!
The family also found it difficult to hire a lawyer in Györ for the murder case, where the Györ Police was so negatively involved and the hostility of the local judiciary was no secret. Lawyers were wary of taking on the case; it would affect their standing in the system.
The Appeal Trial followed in December 2011, merely increasing the sentence to 13 years, changing theft to robbery, in the pretence of giving the flawed process some credibility. At this trial Majlath and her Budapest lawyer Dr. Kicherer filed a 'motion' against the ruling of the First Trial, factually dismantling the arguments of the Judge's version of the cause of death and circumstances of the murder, questioning the legitimacy of the First Trial, asking for it to be quashed, for the conduct of a new investigation and for a higher sentence. This was dismissed by the Appeal court outright. Sophie, as NOK, requested the Judge to ask the murderer as to the whereabouts of her mother`s torso, still missing. The Judge never asked the question or addressed the murderer on this. Finding the torso would have revealed unanswered questions to the murder and the circumstances of Eva`s death! This remains highly controversial, since the murderer confessed to the police that he buried "a rucksack-size torso" (Police Reports 21 and 22 April 2009).
On 15 May 2012 a Pre-Inquest Review (PIR) was held in London at the Westminster Coroner's Court, to determine how Eva died. The Coroner reviewed documentary evidence by British Forensic Anthropologist Gayle Mackinnon, who had carried out an extensive forensic examination of Eva's remains summarized in a 16 page report. The Mackinnon Forensic Report comprehensively shows that Eva suffered multiple peri mortem injuries (prior to her death) rather than a single punch and a single blow to the head with an axe handle, the theory officially accepted in the Hungarian Courts without challenge. The Coroner stated "there are details in the confession that do not fully explain how Eva Rhodes came to die..There are too many inconsistencies. This suggests the involvement of other parties".
On 5 June 2012 Majlath and Barta submitted a preliminary application to make a case against Hungary at the ECHR. The Registry of the Court requested a completed official application by 2 August. This was duly submitted under the name and number 'Majlath and Barta v Hungary No 34690/12' on 27 July, with supporting documents, demonstrating in comprehensive and exhaustive detail exactly how Articles 2, 6 and 8 of the Convention of Human Rights were breached.
The Application covered the context and origin of the case; the lack and failure of the Police investigation; the complaint of Judith Majlath to the Independent Police Complaints Board /IPCB; the incomplete Hungarian forensic examination; the bias of the Courts; the UK Pre-Inquest Review and its findings, based on the Mackinnon Report, which totally supported the contention of the family that the cause of death as presented in the verdict was in contradiction with the forensic evidence.
The application spelt out in detail how the Articles of the Convention were breached. To quote from the Application:
- Article 2 (right to life) inadequacy of the investigation including failure to collect and secure evidence; lack of independence; lack of accessibility to the family and public scrutiny, partiality and lack of independence of the court
- Article 6 (Fair trial) the jurisdictions were biased; they refer to the partiality and lack of independence of the tribunal above mentioned; all family requests for further investigation or to take evidence were rejecte
- Article 8 (respect for private and family life) the applicants complain about the way the victim was treated in the Hungarian courts by the judges and by the media. In this respect, they disagree with the mitigating circumstances which allowed the judge to give an unusually low prison sentence for such horrendous and brutal murder in the First Instance trial. They refer in particular to how the image of the victim has been blackened during the whole proceedings and also in the media without possibility for the family to redress the situation since all their requests to hear other witnesses were rejected.
The first preliminary Application of 5 June was received by the Registry of the Court. Despite their letter of 7 June requesting submission of a completed application, a single judge of the Court declared the first application (a two page letter) inadmissible on 12 July. The case material and recommendation to the judge for this decision was prepared by two Hungarian lawyers, working for the Registry (Attila Teplan and another Hungarian lawyer). They had prepared their recommendation on the basis of the two page preliminary application the Court had received on 5 June. The letter of 7 June from the Registry to the applicant's lawyer was unsigned but the reference indicated involvement of the same Hungarian Attila Teplan
Subsequently the applicants were informed through their lawyer, Maître G. Thuan, that on 23 October 2012, the ECHR, this time with three judges, had deliberated and decided to re-open the application considering the previous declaration of inadmissibility of 12 July was made in error. The case had been prepared for the three judges on 23 October by the same Hungarian lawyers. At this stage clearly the judges had available to them the full application with its supporting documents. They declared the application inadmissible. Thuan, well-versed and thoroughly experienced in ECHR Court procedures, later made a public statement about this rejection in which he stated the ECHR did not deal with this case properly. This was delivered to the Westminster Coroner prior to the inquest. Thuan qualified the rejection by the Court as scandalous and stated the Court made two crucial errors.
The first major mistake is that the case was considered inadmissible before the Court had reviewed the full completed application, a gross malfunction. The second error is that the Court, once the completed application was received, apparently failed to give the full Application proper consideration. The rejection does not deal with the complaints set out and it is as if the jurisdictional control was missing. To make no mention of the Mackinnon Forensic Report is extraordinary because this effectively proved the murderer's statements were a fabrication and that she died a death of horrendous brutality. It appears from the Court's Decision document of 23 October that the application was declared inadmissible based only on the first application of 5 June, on the recommendation of the Hungarian lawyers.
Given the case specifically accused Hungary of a cover-up of judicial failures, that Hungarian lawyers at the ECHR prepared the case and recommendations for the single judge in July, that the case was dismissed before it had been properly considered, that the same lawyers prepared the case for the three judges for the decision in October, that it was dismissed without apparent proper consideration of all materials and the UNUSUALLY FAST TRACK dismissal of the case it is reasonable to suspect or to suggest that the Hungarian cover-up extends into the ECHR. The application and treatment of the case deserve thorough investigation, since Hungary blatantly violated the Convention.
To this day Hungary has never made any request for support from the UK Police or forensic experts, despite the offer of Scotland Yard and the pleas and requests submitted by the family during the Police investigation, murder inquiry and trials. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) requested documents for over 3 years on behalf of the Coroner for the Inquest. Initially Hungary had refused to pass on documents because the trial was on-going but indicated it would do so. Since the closure of the case the Hungarian authorities have argued they do not recognize the British institution of the Coroner. To this day, no documents have been forthcoming from Hungary.
On 9th October 2013 at the inquest into the death of Eva at Westminster Coroner's Court the coroner concluded that Eva was killed 'in an absolutely appalling manner' and 'the man convicted for her murder in Hungary is at least partly responsible for her death'. However the coroner 'finds inconsistencies in his version of events and supports the family's concerns that others may have been involved in the death.' She disagreed with the Hungarian court as to how Eva died, saying that despite contrary evidence from their own expert in Pecs the Hungarian Court accepted without challenge the defendant's version of the murder - that 'she'd been punched in the face and then hit with an axe handle upon the back of the head' (receiving two blows only).
The coroner stated: 'Gaille Mackinnon (forensic expert) found a multitude of skull fractures including two severe fractures of the frontal bone. One inflicted followed by another according to Dr. Mackinnon's evidence in her report, which I accept. A temporal skull fracture, fractures of the left maxilla and left zygoma and the base of the cranium and also a fracture of the left femur; all of which, in her view, she thought were peri-mortem! There were other fractures but she couldn't be sure whether they were peri-mortem or post-mortem. Taken together, I find that Eva did not die as the result of a punch to the face and then a blow to the back of the head but rather as a result of a frenzied attack with a blunt instrument, likely similar to the axe handle type implement`
She also pointed out that 'as inconsistencies can be found in the mechanism of injury the defendant's other evidence also may be less reliable,' which 'leave uncomfortable concerns'. Not the least of which being that she is 'concerned that this man (Police Officer Horvath Zoltan Peter) would appear to have never have been questioned in relation to Eva's death.' In addition she is 'also concerned that officers in direct legal dispute with Eva and her daughter were responsible for the investigation of her disappearance and the investigation of her murder.'
In the case of Eva's death it will be impossible to come to any truth and justice whilst it is clear that comprehensive in-depth investigation of all aspects of the murder has never taken place. Evidence has been suppressed and Eva's "torso" is still missing. The Police investigation remained incomplete and many vital questions are unanswered. They were suppressed by the Police, later by the Prosecutor, the Judge and the Courts, in preparation for and during the trial, ensuring no real investigation would ever take place, violating the Fundamental Rights of the victim and her family to a FAIR TRIAL. The cover-up continued to the end of all judicial procedure in Hungary. This is why the family appealed to the ECHR, to show, through proper consideration of all the facts and the unanswered questions surrounding the death of Eva, that the Police and justice system in Hungary failed the family and violated the respective Articles of European Convention on Human Rights. It is with the deepest disappointment that the family found the ECHR wanting in its remit to thoroughly examine the case. The unanswered questions that remain deny credence to any claim that justice has been done in this case.
The miscarriage of justice in Györ Hungary and the suspiciously blatant failure of the ECHR make an urgent call for a retrial based on the new forensic evidence inevitable.
Website for more Information on the murder case Eva Rhodes www.justiceforevarhodes.eu