Chippenham man heard friend's murder
The harrowing moment a Chippenham man heard his friend murdered by her boyfriend was recorded on a mobile phone, a court heard today.
Paul Keene, 32, snapped and strangled his girlfriend, PhD student Carmen Gabriela Miron-Buchacra, 28, in a drink-fuelled rage, Bristol Crown Court was told.
Ben Jones, from Chippenham, heard the whole thing on his phone, the court was told.
Miss Miron-Buchacra's desperate fight for life as she tried to fend off the attack at the hands of Keene was caught in a telephone call to one of their friends on the night of June 23 this year, the court heard.
Keene can be heard swearing at his partner and threatening to kill her during the seven-minute call.
The court heard it was recorded on the answerphone of Mr Jones and showed how she was repeatedly punched in the face and strangled with a dressing gown cord and electrical cable. After the call Keene sent text messages purporting to be from Miss Miron-Buchacra to Mr Jones saying she was okay.
Keene, an administrator for a financial services firm, and Mexico-born Miss Miron-Buchacra were planning to marry in the autumn of 2013.
The victim, who was known to friends and family as Gaby, was found dead on the bedroom floor of their first-floor Georgian flat in Bath, Somerset, by emergency services shortly after midnight.
The court heard Keene had spent the day playing boules with work colleagues in Bath and had then met friends in the evening for food and drinks.
Meanwhile, Miss Miron-Buchacra was at home looking after their daughter Eleanor and was becoming increasingly annoyed at Keene's decision to go out for the day.
"It seems from the text message contact that Gaby was clearly irritated at the amount of time the defendant was socialising and being with his work colleagues," prosecutor Michael Fitton QC said.
"She makes it clear to him that she had taken offence at the choice he made to spend the whole day with them rather than his family."
Mr Fitton said that by late afternoon Miss Miron-Buchacra had walked with Eleanor the short distance from their flat to where Keene was playing boules.
"Gaby had some time talking with Paul Keene and from her expression it seems she was angered by the fact he had said to her something to the effect of 'get used to it'," Mr Fitton said.
"She didn't stay for long and she left with the baby and went to the flat, five to ten minutes away."
Mr Fitton said that as the evening progressed text messages between Miss Miron-Buchacra and Keene showed an "increase in her irritation and the intensity of her mood".
"Clearly she was still very angry with him and she told him not to come home," he said.
"By 8.45pm she had made it clear she was not going to let him in at home that night."
Keene arrived home at 10.30pm - having drunk eight bottles of beer and a bottle of lager and cider - and was let into the communal building by a neighbour.
He went upstairs to the front door of the flat and texted Miss Miron-Buchacra to let him in.
She immediately replied: "You're at the door? I told you if you went out of this house and our life for a whole day, you do it for life."
Keene replied: "Open it or I'll kick it in."
Mr Fitton explained that at that point a distressed and tearful Miss Miron-Buchacra had phoned Mr Jones - who had been out with Keene that night in Bath - and asked him to take the defendant back to his home in Chippenham.
Mr Jones told her that he was already on the train home, so there was nothing he could do.
When he got off the train, Mr Jones realised there was a message on his mobile phone that was an argument between Keene and his partner. The call lasted from 10.45pm until 10.53pm.
"He could hear that Gaby was crying and was accusing Paul Keene of being drunk and to get out and leave the flat," Mr Fitton said.
"Without listening to all of the call, he tried ringing Paul Keene to try and speak to him but got no reply.
"He also tried ringing Gaby but got no reply."
Mr Fitton explained that the call was difficult to hear the precise words between Keene and Miss Miron-Buchacra because of the sound quality.
"The call is also difficult to hear because of its emotive nature," Mr Fitton added.
Miss Miron-Buchacra said to Keene: "You are drunk, get out of the house."
Keene replies: "What the f*** is your problem? You show up like a
f****** w**y bitch.
"Carry on like this and I am going to end up in prison because you are going to be dead. I might kill you because you are a f****** t**t."
Mr Fitton said: "She told him to stop and she could be heard screaming.
She can be heard begging him to stop and pleading for him to get off her.
"And the defendant has been heard to say 'f****** bitch' and saying 'I'll kill you'.
"The sound of choking can be heard. There are sounds of banging and screaming and her last words 'Please don't' and there is silence."
Mr Jones sent text messages to Miss Miron-Buchacra asking if she was okay. At 11.30pm he received a reply, in which she said "It's okay Ben, I'm okay."
He asked her to call him but two minutes later Mr Jones received a reply, which said "Just gone out for a walk to calm down."
"It is the prosecution's case that these text messages at 11.12pm and 11.32pm from Gaby, she was almost certainly dead," Mr Fitton said.
"As far as we can tell Gaby was unconscious and likely to be dead by 11pm.
"If that is right, these text messages were not sent by her and it follows these messages were sent by the defendant purporting to be Gaby to Ben Jones pretending she was well and walking around the streets of Bath."
Meanwhile, Mr Jones was texting Keene telling him he had 10 minutes to get Gaby to ring him or he was calling the police.
At 11.18pm Keene replied and said: "What? I got home and she'd gone crazy."
He sent a further message saying Miss Miron-Buchacra had gone out for a walk and added: "She went mental on me mate because I played boule. Gaby told me off, accusing me of putting work before family. It's bullshit. I love my family xx."
The court heard that Mr Jones also spoke to Keene's brother and following that telephone call rang the police.
When the police arrived, they found Miss Miron-Buchacra's body on the bedroom floor.
Keene told them: "We were having an argument and I hit her in the face with my fist."
At the police station, officers took a breath test that showed that five hours after killing Miss Miron-Buchacra, Keene had a blood alcohol level of slightly over the drink-drive limit.
"Our case is that he had enough drink to be clearly affected by it, probably enough to relax him or reduce his inhibitions, but not enough to make him drunk, and certainly not enough to reduce his culpability,"
Mr Fitton said.
"Our case is that he knew exactly what he was doing."
Keene had also tried to wipe away some of the blood splattering in the flat before the police arrived, the court was told.
A post-mortem examination revealed heavy bruising to Miss Miron-Buchacra's face, including two black eyes, and she had suffered "significant brain damage" from blunt force trauma to her head. She had been strangled.
"Her death was not instantaneous and it lasted a significant period of time," Mr Fitton said.
"Our case is that this defendant lost his temper with Gaby that night and when he lost his temper he hit her with his fists and he saw that he had made her bleed.
"That would, we suggest, be enough for any man of good character to come to his senses. As would a man who was to claim in text messages that he loved his family and his partner.
"He must have known he had hurt her and she was screaming, but he continued, despite her pleadings to stop.
"By then his love for her had gone and his feelings towards her was that he wanted to hurt her without being able to stop himself.
"When he took her throat in his hands he must have been able to see the pain and suffering, but by then he must have been no longer trying to cause her real serious harm but to kill her."
During police interviews, Keene told detectives that when he arrived home she had moved towards him with her arms raised and he just "snapped".
He maintained he had grabbed Miss Miron-Buchacra around the throat with his right hand and they both fell on the floor and as he lay on top of her, he hit her in the face with his left hand.
Mr Fitton said that Keene's defence was that he lost his "self control"
because Miss Miron-Buchacra threatened to leave him and take his daughter away from him.
The court heard that the couple had been together two years - with their daughter Eleanor May born the previous April - but there were a lot of problems in their relationship.
They argued about the forthcoming wedding in Mexico, their friendships, their domestic and social lives and whether they were spending time together.
Mr Fitton said that they also considered splitting up both before and after Eleanor was born.
"It might be that they were not as well suited to each other as they first thought," Mr Fitton said.
Miss Miron-Buchacra, who was studying at the University of Bath, told friends that Keene had become aggressive and hit her but she never made a complaint to the police.
"No one who knew them had been able to predict the event that unfolded in the terrible way it did," Mr Fitton told jurors.
"Threats were made by Gaby that she would go back to Mexico and leave Paul. On other occasions threats were made to take the baby away by Paul Keene."
Mr Fitton told the court that Keene had seen his GP in July last year after becoming concerned about his temper and his inability to control it.
"He told the GP that he had a short fuse of late and he had smashed a plate and that he had some night terrors and disturbed sleep," Mr Fitton added.
Keene, of Bennett Street, Bath, Somerset denies a single charge of murder but he has admitted manslaughter on the grounds of loss of self control - a plea rejected by the prosecution.
The jury of six men and six women were also played a chilling tape recording of the mobile phone call to Mr Jones in which Miss Miron-Buchacra fought for her life.
Keene wept and wiped his tears away with a tissue as he listened to the harrowing call.
Miss Miron-Buchacra can be heard repeatedly screaming, shouting, shrieking and sobbing as she pleaded with Keene.
"Get off me," she screamed.
"Get off, get off, please, no, please, please, please..."
The court also heard a 999 call Keene made to the police - after the call made by Mr Jones - in which he confessed to killing Miss Miron-Buchacra.
The emergency operator asked whether he needed an ambulance and Keene replied: "No, I don't think so, I think the coroner..."
He added: "Can you tell them I didn't mean to kill her."
The operator could also hear Keene comforting his daughter, saying: "I am so sorry baby."
The trial was adjourned until tomorrow.