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Heroin addict guilty of killing 100-year-old Zofija Kaczan in street robbery

Ms Kaczan survived a Nazi labour camp during the Second World War in which she was sentenced to death on her birthday. Photo: Stacia Fitzsimmons/PA

A heroin addict has been found guilty of killing a frail 100-year-old widow in a street robbery.

Mugger Artur Waszkiewicz knocked Zofija Kaczan to the floor, took her handbag and left her to bleed in the middle of the road as she made her way to church on May 28 last year.

Polish-born Ms Kaczan, who survived a Nazi camp during the Second World War, suffered multiple injuries, including a fractured neck and cheekbone.

Polish-born widow Ms Kaczan survived a Nazi labour camp during the Second World War in which she was forced to work in factories and was even sentenced to death on her birthday.

Despite suffered multiple injuries, including a fractured neck and cheekbone, as well as being in extreme pain following the attack, Ms Kaczan "had the capacity to pray" for the mugger every day before she died, read a statement released on behalf of the Polish community of St Maksymilian Kolbe, Derby.

Polish-born Zofija Kaczan suffered multiple injuries in an attack on May 28 and later died in hospital. Credit: PA

Ms Kaczan died from pneumonia in hospital on June 6 – a condition brought on by the injuries she sustained in the attack.

A jury of seven men and five women at Derby Crown Court found Waszkiewicz guilty of killing her close to the junction of St Chads Road and Empress Road in Normanton, Derby.

They deliberated for just over two hours before unanimously convicting Waszkiewicz of manslaughter and robbery.

The defendant, wearing a black velvet jacket and velvet slipper shoes, looked straight ahead and showed no emotion as the verdicts were delivered.

Addressing the jury, the judge said: “The sentence will inevitably be one of lengthy imprisonment. Mr Waszkiewicz knows that.”

Waszkiewicz’s car was seen close to the scene. Credit: Derbyshire Police/PA

The centenarian had been separated from her family in Poland during the war, but had managed to “find peace” with her husband after coming to Derby in 1948.

Friends said she did not want to celebrate her 100th birthday because they day marked the same day of the year she had been sentenced to death by the Nazis.

Waszkiewicz was caught on CCTV driving a Seat Leon car he bought from his father minutes before robbing Ms Kaczan – slowing down as soon as he saw a “small, vulnerable” woman on her own.

His trial heard he needed an “easy target” to steal from so he could meet a drug dealer a short time later to buy £20 of heroin.

Zofija Kaczan’s green handbag was stolen when she was attacked Credit: Derbyshire Police/PA

The force he used in the attack ripped the handle off the handbag, inflicting significant bruising on Ms Kaczan’s arm.

Opening the case, prosecutor Kate Brunner QC said: “She was attacked, she was thrown to the ground and her handbag was snatched from her.

“She was small, on her own, vulnerable – an easy target for a man desperate for money.

“He attacked Ms Kaczan, yanking her handbag from her and leaving her injured in the road and driving off.”

Artur Waszkiewicz was convicted at Derby Crown Court on Wednesday. Credit: PA

Police arrested Waszkiewicz, who was also born in Poland, after his fingerprint was recovered from a receipt in the bag.

He fled the city and hid under a bed at his mother’s house in London to try to avoid arrest.

He drastically altered his appearance by cutting his long hair and changed the insurance details on his car.

The jury heard he was so desperate for cash that he had tried to sell his dog, and asked neighbour John Shinners for money.

The trial was told the 40-year-old had a number of previous convictions including shoplifting, creating false identification documents and one offence of battery.

Zofija Kaczan had left her home to walk to St Maksymilian Kolbe Polish Church. Credit: PA

He denied both charges, saying he had found the green handbag in the middle of the road, picked it up, and disposed of it at a well-known fly-tipping area because there was no cash.

A spokeswoman for the Polish community of St Maksymilian Kolbe, the church Ms Kaczan attended, said: “We would like to thank all the people who have been involved in bringing the perpetrator of the crime against Zofija Kaczan to justice.

“Mrs Kaczan was an active member of our community, who although she had reached the milestone of 100 years, enjoyed her life going to church, shopping, having her hair done and attending the lunches at the Polish Centre followed by bingo.

Tributes were paid to Ms Kaczan, who prayed for her attacker every day before she died. Credit: PA

“She had a very difficult early life. Coming to Derby in 1949, she had found a degree of stability and tranquillity. That tranquillity was shattered by the brutal events of May 28, 2018.”

The spokeswoman added: “Despite the pain and suffering that she was in for the last week of her life, she had the capacity to pray for her attacker before she died. We believe she has found peace in the arms of her Heavenly Father.”

Waszkiewicz, of Hilary Road in Shepherd’s Bush, west London, will be sentenced at the same court on Thursday.