Dog walker thought man was 'trying to strangle' his wife

Dog walker thought a husband was ‘trying to strangle’ his wife by a lake before realising he was attempting to resuscitate her, inquest hears

  • Andrius Vengalis, 46, was charged with the murder of Egle Vengaliene, 35 
  • He was in custody for nine months before charge dropped and he walked free

A dog walker thought a husband was ‘trying to strangle’ his wife at the side of a lake before realising he was attempting to resuscitate her, an inquest heard today.

Robert McDonald said that mother-of-five Egle Vengaliene, 35, had the top half of her body on a bank and her legs dangling in the water as her husband Andrius Vengalis, 46, tried to revive her.

Suffolk Coroner’s Court in Ipswich heard how Mr McDonald helped Mr Vengalis drag his wife fully out of the water and carry out chest compressions on her.

Mr Vengalis was charged with his Lithuanian-born wife’s murder after she was declared dead next to the lake surrounded by woodland at Brandon Country Park, Suffolk.

He was in custody for nine months, but walked free after a not guilty charge was recorded by a judge at Ipswich Crown Court in January last year when prosecutors offered no evidence against him.

A dog walker thought Andrius Vengalis was ‘trying to strangle’ his wife Egle Vengaliene (pictured together) at the side of a lake before realising he was attempting to resuscitate her, an inquest heard today

Mother-of-five Egle Vengaliene, 35, had the top half of her body on a bank and her legs dangling in the water, dog walker Robert McDonald said

Giving evidence to the hearing by video link, Mr McDonald said he had been walking his four dogs through the park when he heard ‘screams and shouts’ at 6.50am on April 9, 2021.

He said: ‘It just sounded like somebody very distressed, screaming and shouting. I thought it was just one voice. It was a male voice and it changed tone and pitch.’

Mr McDonald described in a statement to police how he initially thought ‘it was someone having an argument or being attacked.’ He added: ‘I thought it was a foreign language.’

But today he said: ‘In hindsight it was more of a distressed sound of someone really trying to get a point across.

‘I was getting closer, and it sounded more and more distressed. As I got closer, I still thought it was some sort of altercation going on.’

When he went round a corner, he saw ‘two people down by the lake’ with one on top of the other.’

Mr McDonald said he then realised it was man on top of a woman and dialled 999 for an ambulance.

He added: ‘As I went round the corner I believe the dogs started barking. He looked at me and carried on doing these chest compression and carried on crying.’

But he said that the tone of man changed from ‘distress’ to ‘relief’ that potentially help was on its way.

Describing his first thoughts on seeing the couple, he said: ‘I thought that he had her around the throat and was trying to strangle her basically.

‘The action I saw was like a pushing down motion, like he was throttling her. But as I got closer, I could see it was not what I thought it was.

‘He was holding her with his left hand and pressing with his right hand on her upper chest area. His left hand was cradling her.’

Mr Vengalis pictured yesterday (left) at Suffolk Coroners Court in Ipswich where he attended the inquest into the death of his wife

Mr McDonald said he helped Mr Vengalis drag his wife (pictured) out of the water on to the grass and showed him how to do chest compressions properly 

Mr McDonald insisted that the man’s actions did not appear to change as he approached, saying: ‘He continued to do the same thing. He didn’t change. I was wrong in what I saw initially.’

He told the hearing that the woman’s head was out of the water the whole time.

As a children’s football coach, he said he received regular first aid training and realised the man was not doing chest compressions correctly.

He said he helped Mr Vengalis drag her out of the water on to the grass and showed him how to do chest compressions properly.

Mr McDonald told how he went to fetch a defibrilator which he knew was kept in a box at the park’s visitor centre, leaving Mr Vengalis to continue trying to help his lifeless wife.

When he returned with the device, he struggled to put the pads on Ms Vengaliene’s chest, and took over resuscitation attempts.

The inquest heard how another dog walker Tim Kent had told police how Mr McDonald had told him later that Mr Vengalis was doing chest compressions in ‘a half-hearted’ manner.

Mr McDonald told the hearing: ‘He was doing it all wrong. Maybe that was the wrong term to use. He was not doing it correctly. It was never going to work. He thought what he was doing was correct, but it wasn’t. If I did say it was half-hearted, I was wrong in saying that.’

The inquest heard how Mr McDonald was walking his dogs with his wife Elizabeth near the park three days later when they came across Pc Marie Appelby at the police cordon near the lake.

Mr McDonald said he was a friend of the officer and her told her how he had given his statement to her colleagues.

The inquest heard that PC Appleby had recalled him saying: ‘Thinking about it now, it felt like he was holding her under water.’

But Mr McDonald told the inquest that he had not made the comment to her. He said: ‘No, I definitely did not. I have never thought that.’

Mr Vengalis who attended the hearing, told him through an interpreter: ‘Thank you for helping me that morning.’

Police at Brandon country Park, Suffolk, after Egle Vengaliene was found drowned in a lake

PC Appleby said Mr MacDonald was ‘clearly struggling with what he had experienced’ when she spoke to him.

She added: ‘He was just randomly saying things, trying to piece things together in his mind* I understood that he was quite confused about everything that had happened.’

Asked how confident she was that she had remembered Mr McDonald’s words, she said: ‘As much as I can be.’

The inquest heard how Sgt Robert Cates had gone to the lake after Ms Vengaliene had been found and had activated his bodycam which captured Mr Vengalis saying his wife had disappeared from their home in Brandon in the early hours.

He said: ‘I came back from job at midnight, go to sleep and wife wakes up at 1am. She says, ‘I feel bad’. I woke up at 5 am and didn’t find her. Go to park and find her here.’

Roger Clarke, a near neighbour of Mr Vengalis and his wife, said he was woken by a large bang some time after 3.30am.

A short time later he saw Mr Vengalis outside his house, and looking up and down the road.

Shortly before 7am, he found blood smeared on his washing machine and microwave in his conservatory and on the floor.

A coffee jar had also been smashed, and a socket had been pulled out of the wall. He later discovered his garden fence and gate had been damaged with a pair of grey fluffy slippers left at the scene. He insisted he had never seen the slippers before.

Marie Quirk and her partner Matthew Griffiths who live next door to Mr Clarke said they had heard a rustling noise at around 1am when they were away dealing with their baby.

Ms Quirk said in a statement how they had got up again at about 3am as their baby would not settle, and heard what she described as ‘a throaty gurgling sound’.

Mr Griffiths dismissed the noise at the time, saying it sounded like one of Mr Clarke’s cats.

Royal Mail delivery driver Alan Brown had spotted a woman, believed to be Ms Vengaliene, walking into woods just after 3am on the day she died.

Ms Vengaliene knocked on the window of Brandon Park care home next to the lake at 5.15am, appearing wet and shivering when she was seen by staff.

She asked for help, but they could not let her into the home due to Covid restrictions at the time. When they offered to call police to help her, she replied: ‘No, no police. Will be big trouble’, and walked off.

Mr Vengalis denied murdering his wife and insisted that he had jumped into the water to try and pull her out and resuscitate her after going to look for her.

Ipswich Crown Court heard last year that post mortems could not determine whether Ms Vengaliene was unlawfully killed, took her own life or died accidentally.

The hearing continues.

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