Alex Constantine - October 19, 2013
Daughter of Eva Rhodes believes police officer had 'motive for murder'
Daughter of former beauty queen and London socialite Eva Rhodes believes a Hungarian policeman had a motive for her murder, an inquest heard
The daughter of former British model Eva Rhodes believes a Hungarian policeman had a motive to get rid of her mother and organised her murder with the man convicted of the killing, an inquest heard.
Mrs Rhodes, a friend of John Lennon, disappeared in September 2008 and was originally classed as a “missing person” despite her relatives saying she had been robbed and murdered. Her body was found in woods near her home near Gyor, 65 miles from Budapest in 2009, and her caretaker Csaba Augusztinyi admitted killing her.
But her daughter Sophia Barta told Westminster Coroner's Court she believes a Hungarian police officer, Horvath Zoltan Peter, was also involved in the murder.
The 65-year-old, a friend of John Lennson,was a passionate animal rights activist, using her life savings to set up the Puss in Boots Animal Trust in Hungary, which took in stray and abused cats and dogs. She campaigned to end Hungarian puppy farms, which led to clashes with police.
She disappeared in mysterious circumstances in September 2008 and her remains were eventually found more than seven months later.
Ms Barta described the original incident that sparked a series of clashes with police, when she said Officer Peter came to their home and attacked her mother and dogs.
She said: "She managed to get out of his hold which was very lucky and ran back in to the house and shut the door.
"I heard the door being kicked and so I decided to get dressed and the only way to stop him tearing down the door was to photograph him and use the flash to draw his attention.'
By this point, Mrs Rhodes had called a local judge and was trying to get him to calm officer Peter down, the inquest heard.
But Ms Barta said when she took the photo Officer Peter managed to get to her.
"He turned round and roared and ran at me and I was trying to get back into the house and lock the door but I wasn't fast enough," she added.
"He threw himself on the door and smashed me back on to a wall and I was concussed.
"I crumpled into a heap and he began raining blows on me with his baton - an American baton designed to break bones.
"I turned my head and looked at his face and his eyes were that of somebody taking great pleasure in what he was doing."
She said she called for help and her mother came and started to talk him down.
She said they went to a hospital after the attack and were there "all night."
"My mother even had a gun held to her head," she added.
"Finally we were asked to give a witness statement and we gave them as victims.
"We were very surprised 24 hours later that our statements had disappeared and instead we had a prosecution case against us.
"The very next day we called all the lawyers in Gyor and nobody would touch our case and they told us that there career would be finished and it was not worth their livelihood.
"... Csaba Augusztinyi, who was sentenced to 13 years in prison, told his trial that he had punched Mrs Rhodes before striking her with an axe handle. He then set fire to the body using petrol, but the torso and other parts were never recovered from the murder scene. ..."
"We were clearly living in a police state.'
The attack led to a long series of accusations and cover ups, including Mrs Rhodes and Ms Barta accusing police officers of making false statements to manufacture a case against them in which Peter was the victim.
A trial in 2002 saw the pair acquitted but the verdict was annulled by a judge in Gyor. Two more trials were organized, but the first in 2007 was abandoned after the judge suddenly resigned. A second trial in 2008 collapsed after Officer Peter didn't turn up.
Ms Barta told the court: "I am of no doubt it was him (Peter) and the man who is in prison that did it together.
"The man in prison needed to let him in after my mother changed the security system.
"He had a motive - there was no way for them to get out of that trial."
Csaba Augusztinyi, who was sentenced to 13 years in prison, told his trial that he had punched Mrs Rhodes before striking her with an axe handle.
He then set fire to the body using petrol, but the torso and other parts were never recovered from the murder scene.
The inquest hearing had been adjourned from May last year to January 2013 while the family took the case to the European Court of human rights in Strasbourg.
Campaigners claim Hungarian Police have covered up the details of the case for five years and refused requests from the UK government for information.
Most of the former beauty queen’s body, which was discovered in Hungary where she had been living, was never recovered - it was dismembered and set alight, possibly when she was still alive - and her torso remains missing.
Her family say the authorities in Hungary refused requests for details to be handed over so Scotland Yard can investigate. They said a report by Gaille MacKinnon, one of the UK's leading forensic anthropologists, presented to the coroner at Westminster Coroner's Court, contradicts evidence that underpinned the Hungarian investigations.
They claim authorities continued to cover up the case, and it was only after the intervention of her sister Judith Majlath, whose decades-long work on landmines was recognised with others by the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, that they launched a “missing persons’ inquiry.
Campaigners say William Hague, Foreign Secretary, and Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the family's MP, have championed the case and following the inquest the family will write to Theresa May, the Home Secretary, asking her to support moves for an investigation by Scotland Yard.
Mrs Rhodes was born in Hungary but moved to England when her family fled the country in 1956.
She had a successful early career, including an appearance in a film by John Lennon and Yoko Ono.