Catherine Wells-Burr murder – 32 year minimum terms handed out

Catherine Wells-Burr murder – 32 year minimum terms handed out


Three people, Rafal Nowak, Anna Lagwinowicz and Tadevsz Dmytryszyn, were sentenced to life imprisonment on 10th June 2013 for the murder of Catherine Wells-Burr. They had all been convicted by the jury on 7th June.

Ms Wells-Burr was a graduate of Bristol University. She met Mr Nowak whilst on a summer job in a factory and started a relationship with him (leaving Ms Lagwinowicz for her). It seemed that over time Mr Nowak and Ms Lagwinowicz rekindled their relationship and began to plot Ms Wells-Burr’s murder.

Helpfully, the sentencing remarks of the Judge (Sharp J) have been made publicly available. She noted that this was an offence that was motivated by greed – there was nothing to stop Mr Nowak leaving Ms Wells-Burr, it seemed that he and Ms Lagwinowicz decided to kill her and obtain the life insurance on the flat that they had bought.

They recruited Mr Dmytryszyn to assist in a carefully constructed murder, trying to ensure that they covered their tracks. This involved, over a period or weeks (or maybe months), generating a false internet account for Mr Wells-Burr on a pornographic dating website and bought mobile phones to create the illusion of a mystery lover who would be blamed for the killing. 

On 10th September 2012 Ms Wells-Burr was killed and her body put in a car and set light to. This was while Mr Novak was at work (to give him an alibi).

An overview of how life imprisonments works is here. Here, the sentencing exercise was actually a relatively straightforward one. The murder was for gain, and so the starting point is 30 years. This is then made more serious by the degree of planning and the attempt to burn the body. There were no mitigating features.

For this reason, it was clear that the minimum terms to be set would be in excess of 30 years, the only question for the Judge would be by how much? This is a matter of degree for the Judge, as was the question of whether all the people involved should receive the same sentence (which the Judge decided they should, given they were all part of the ploy, albeit playing different roles).

In light of that, it is unlikely that any appeal will be successful, at least for the first two of the defendants. It may be that Mr Dmytryszyn has reason to feel hard done by in the circumstances, in that he was recruited into the plot later, did not actually take part in the killing, and did not have the motivation of money. If any appeal is successful, it is likely that it would be in relation to him – although this would not see a huge reduction in his sentence, maybe a couple of years off the ‘tariff’. None of the three will be going anywhere soon.



Dan is a barrister at 2 Dr. Johnson’s Buildings practising in crime.