Northern Ireland

Man who killed 'frail and vulnerable' retired police officer jailed

Brian Coulter
Brian Coulter Brian Coulter

A 29-year old man who killed a frail and vulnerable retired police officer in his own home then continued to drink in the deceased's property has been jailed for four and a half years.

Adrian Sebastian Nowak appeared at Belfast Crown Court on Friday and was sentenced by Mr Justice O'Hara.

Brian Coulter (62) was fatally assaulted by the man half his age at this flat in Magherafelt, Co Derry, in October 2021.

After killing Mr Coulter some time between October 13 and 14, Adrian Sebastian Nowak made efforts to clean the flat.

Evidence suggested the deceased was then placed in the shower and washed by Nowak before his body was moved to a bedroom.

Mr Coulter's remains were discovered on October 18 by his sister who had to flee the flat after she was "roared at aggressively by Nowak."

As he sentenced Nowak, Mr Justice O'Hara said: "The striking detail in this case is the defendant's utter inhumanity and a complete absence of civilised conduct on his part."

As Mr Coulter's family sat in the public gallery, the judge spoke of the "horrendous discovery" of Mr Coulter's remains by his sister.

The deceased was described as a man who had spent a large part of his life "serving the community as a police officer" but who in later life had both alcohol and health issues including seizures which left him without power in his right hand.

His sister - who undertook a caring role for her only brother - saw him on October 12 and he was last seen alive in the company of Nowak the following day.

At around noon on October 18 his sister called at Mr Coulter's flat at Sandy Braes, and once inside she saw a man she didn't know asleep.

She then went to the front bedroom, observed her brother lying on the floor and immediately realised he was dead.

At this point Nowak woke up, adopted a threatening stance and shouted at her. This caused her to flee the property and once outside, she called the PSNI.

As she was waiting for police to arrive, Nowak left the flat and when officers arrived at the scene, they noticed blood in the living room, hallway and bathroom.

Mr Coulter's remains were removed from the bedroom and a post mortem conducted on October 20 concluded death was due to blunt force injuries to his head, neck and chest.

Other injuries included a fracture to his larynx and bruising to his hands and wrists which were consistent with defensive wounds.

Nowak - who had only been released from HMP Maghaberry on a unrelated mater just days before he killed Mr Coulter - was arrested on the afternoon of October 18 in the car park of Home Bargains in Magherafelt.

He both assaulted and obstructed police, and after being taken to Musgrave Custody Suite, he was interviewed 14 times and refused to answer questions.

During the 15th and final interview, Nowak gave a pre-prepared statement in which he claimed that after meeting Mr Coulter he went back to his flat where they drank together.

Nowak also claimed that after an argument, Mr Coulter hit him - and he struck him back one or possibly twice in self-defence.

Mr Justice O'Hara spoke of the differences between Nowak and Mr Coulter and said that whilst Nowak was a young man with no health issues, his victim was a "frail, vulnerable drunk 62-year old man."

He added that after attacking "an essential stranger" in his own home, Nowak failed to get medical assistance then remained in the dead man's home drinking for several days.

Regarding Mr Coulter's grieving sister and, Mr Justice O'Hara said he had read a statement in which she set out her "distress and heartbreak" over the death of her brother and said the "trauma and pain" will never leave her.

The judge said he had also read a statement from Mr Coulter's daughter who spoke of the negative impact her father's death has had on her and her family.

Nowak, with an address at Colvil Street in Belfast, arrived in Northern Ireland from his native Poland in 2019.

Revealing he has a criminal record both here and in Poland, Mr Justice O'Hara said he was granting an order for deportation.

He said: "The defendant's life in Northern Ireland has been a disaster for him personally, over and above his killing Mr Coulter.

"He has contributed nothing to life in this jurisdiction. There is no reason not to recommend his deportation and I do so recommend."

As well as being sentenced for manslaughter, Nowak was handed six month concurrent jail terms for a common assault on Mr Coulter's sister, obstructing police and assaulting police.