Northern Ireland

‘Do you want to go for an ice cream?’ - man alleged to have asked girl (7) he is accused of abducting

Knife found in his bag when arrested, court is told

Alleged kidnapper Marek Burieta
Alleged kidnapper Marek Burieta

A Slovakian man allegedly abducted a seven-year-old girl from her own garden after he asked if “she wanted to go for ice cream,” a jury has heard.

The Craigavon Crown Court jury also heard that after Marek Burieta allegedly lifted the girl and was carrying her down the street, the child was saved by a neighbour who ran screaming out of her house and took the child from the 33-year-old alleged kidnapper.

Burieta, with an address at Spelga Park in Lurgan, faces accusations of child abduction, kidnapping and possession of an offensive weapon, namely a knife, at Brookehill in Lurgan, on June 28 last year.

Opening the Crown case against Burieta, prosecuting counsel Nicola Auret told the jury how the little girl was playing in her garden when the 33-year-old approached her and asked “did she want to go for ice cream?”

Ms Auret alleged that Burieta then picked her up and was in the process of carrying her down the street towards an alleyway when a neighbour Zoe Russell intervened.

“She screamed at him to put the child down and that he did not know her,” said the lawyer adding that Ms Russell, who was on the phone with the police at the time, “took the girl from the defendant.”

Ms Russell told the jury on Tuesday she had been in the garden with her kids and when she saw the defendant walking down the street “I didn’t feel right…he just seemed off to me” so they all went inside the house.

She was watching from an upstairs window and saw Burieta kneeling beside the girl “talking to her.”

“I felt that uncomfortable that I had phoned 101 to say there was somebody acting just a bit off around the street but they said it would be 45 minutes but then I heard him ask her did she want to go for ice cream,” the witness told the jury adding “I immediately hung up and dialled 999.”

Describing how Burieta had taken the child by the hand and was “dragging her down the street,” Ms Russell told the jury and trial Judge Patrick Lynch KC she was still on the phone to 999 as she ran out of her house and down the street after them.

“I was screaming you don’t know her, give me her back,” she told the jury, recounting how Burieta set down what appeared to be a clear glass bottle of alcohol and told her “it’s ok.”

The witness told Ms Auret she could remember smelling alcohol on Burieta’s breath when she reached them and that after she took the girl from him, “I put her behind me so that he couldn’t get her.”

Ms Russell told the court that was when Burieta “started to back away” and with other neighbours coming out to see what was going on, she “pushed the child back up to her home” where the little girl’s mum was.

The jury was earlier told that when police arrived on the scene and searched Burieta’s back pack, they uncovered a “large carving knife” in the bottom of the bag.

Arrested and interviewed, the jury heard how Burieta “gave a prepared statement denying that he had attempted to abduct or kidnap a child” and then refused to answer police questions.

The trial continues.