A “sordid and petty criminal” has been handed a 15-year prison sentence for killing a 100-year-old Nazi prison camp survivor in a street robbery.
Self-confessed heroin addict Artur Waszkiewicz attacked Zofija Kaczan from behind as she was walking to church – knocking her to the ground, snatching her handbag and leaving her bleeding in the road on May 28 last year.
Polish-born widow Ms Kaczan survived “the unimaginable horror” of a prison camp and even “imminent execution” at the hands of the Nazis in her home country – but her life was instead ended by the drug addict who needed £20 to buy heroin.
Ms Kaczan, who had prayed for the mugger shortly after the robbery, suffered multiple injuries including a fractured neck and cheekbone – something a judge described as a “crime of the meanest, most despicable type”.
She died from pneumonia in hospital on June 6 – a condition brought on by the injuries from the attack close to the junction of St Chads Road and Empress Road in Normanton, Derby.
Waszkiewicz, of Hilary Road in Shepherd’s Bush, west London, was unanimously convicted of manslaughter and robbery by a jury at Derby Crown Court on Wednesday.
As the 40-year-old was sentenced on Thursday, Waszkiewicz, who was also born in Poland, bowed his head throughout the sentencing hearing flanked by one dock officer.
The mugger’s latest convictions have been added to a series of other offences – including battery, shoplifting, creating fake identity documents and motoring offences.
After striking Ms Kaczan from behind, Waszkiewicz then snatched her green handbag with so much force that the handle was ripped off and the pensioner was left with severe bruising on her arm.
Jailing Waszkiewicz, Judge Nicholas Dean QC said: “In this trial, you demonstrated the arrogance of the cowardly petty criminal you are.
“The evidence you faced overwhelmingly showed you to have been the man who attacked Zofija Kaczan on May 28 last year, soon after her 100th birthday.
“True to your nature as a petty criminal and heroin addict, this was opportunist crime of the meanest, most despicable type.”
The judge continued: “You are a coward. Of course, you did not know that Mrs Kaczan was as old as 100 years, but you certainly knew she was elderly, and you could see that she was diminutive – she was vulnerable and that you knew full well when you chose to attack her.
“You pushed her from behind with considerable force and at the same time you snatched her handbag, again with considerable force.
“All this for modest gain and for you to satisfy your craving for heroin.
“There is tragic irony in the fact that Mrs Kaczan had survived the unimaginable horror of a Nazi concentration camp and slave labour, as well as imminent execution – only to meet her end because of the cowardly and sordid actions of a petty criminal and drug addict on the streets of Derby.”
The judge added: “Mrs Kaczan would not have wanted her life to be defined by the circumstances of her death. She had prayed for and forgiven her attacker which is testament to the good person she was.”
Ms Kaczan had been separated from her family during the war but had managed to “find peace” with her husband when she moved to Derby in 1948.
Friends said she did not want to celebrate her 100th birthday because the day marked the same date she had been sentenced to death by the Nazis.
Police arrested Waszkiewicz after finding his fingerprint on a receipt in the handbag and spotting his Seat Leon car on CCTV at the scene at the time of the attack.
He attempted to cover his tracks in the days following the robbery – cleaning his car, drastically altering his appearance and changing the insurance details on the car.
Despite his efforts, the killer was arrested after he was found hiding under a bed at his mother’s address in Shepherd’s Bush.
When questioned by police, Waszkiewicz originally said he was too unfit to be interviewed due to his withdrawal from heroin.
His trial heard he was so desperate to find cash for drugs that he had tried to sell his dog, and asked neighbour John Shinners for money.
He needed an “easy target” to steal from and decided to pick on “small, vulnerable” Ms Kaczan.
The mugger’s defence barrister David Nathan QC told the court: “Mr Waszkiewicz did not simply rob Ms Kaczan of her handbag, he robbed her of her life.
“I would respectfully submit he is not a monster.
“No doubt over the last few months in custody he will have realised what he has thrown away.”
After Waszkiewicz’s conviction, a spokeswoman for the Polish community of St Maksymilian Kolbe, the church Ms Kaczan attended, said: “She had a very difficult early life. Coming to Derby in 1949, she had found a degree of stability and tranquillity. That tranquillity was shattered by the brutal events of May 28 2018.
“Despite the pain and suffering that she was in for the last week of her life, she had the capacity to pray for her attacker before she died. We believe she has found peace in the arms of her Heavenly Father.”