A WOMAN who murdered a former work colleague by striking her on the head around 50 times with a hammer has been jailed for 16 years.
Ludmila Poletelova, 61, was found dead in her home in Limavady, Co. Derry on Friday, April 23, 2021.
She had been brutally attacked three days earlier by 47-year-old Svetlana Svedova, who then took money from the victim's property to pay off a debt.
"This was a brutal attack on a defenceless woman who was entitled to feel safe in her own home," said prosecutor Kirsten McKevitt of the Public Prosecution Service.
"While nothing can bring Ludmila back, we hope the conclusion of these proceedings brings some measure of comfort to her family and friends."
The two women, who were both originally from Latvia, had previously worked together in a local wine bar in Limavady.
It is believed that Svedova went to Ms Poletelova's home on the afternoon of Tuesday, April 20, 2021.
Svedova claimed the pair argued, which led to her attacking the victim.
A post-mortem examination showed Ms Poletelova had died from severe head injuries consistent with being struck repeatedly with a claw hammer.
After the attack, Svedova took money from the victim's flat and was able to pay off a substantial sum in rent arrears the morning after the murder, despite having no obvious source of funds.
Ms Poletelova's body was discovered three days later by a friend after she had failed to turn up for a shift at the wine bar where she worked.
Svedova initially denied any wrongdoing but eventually pleaded guilty after a collaborative investigation between the PSNI and prosecutors in the Public Prosecution Service.
Evidence gathered included CCTV footage showing Svedova disposing of items in a bin after the attack, which the PSNI believe may have included the murder weapon and blood-stained clothes.
'Struck repeatedly and ferociously'
Detective Inspector Claire McGarvey said the victim was a well-liked and respected member of the community.
"This was a shocking attack in which Ludmila Poletelova was struck repeatedly, and ferociously, with a hammer," said DI McGarvey.
"The injuries sustained included multiple skull fractures due to over 50 blows to the head.
"Ludmila, who was from Latvia, had lived and worked in the town for a number of years.
"While she kept herself to herself, she was greatly respected and well-liked within the community.
"I would like to thank local people for their assistance with this investigation. Your support has been invaluable.
"Furthermore, Ludmila's family have extended their sincere gratitude to those who initiated and supported fundraising to allow Ludmila's body to be returned to her native Latvia.
"Today my thoughts are with Ludmila's two sons and two grandchildren who remain heartbroken and distraught by the loss of, and level of violence inflicted upon, their loved one.
"Indeed, their torment was prolonged by the defendant's delay in pleading guilty.
"This was a senseless, cruel and brutal loss of an innocent life."