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Home   Maidstone   News   Article

Man accused of Joele Leotta's murder claims he tried to halt attack above Maidstone restaurant

13 June 2014
by Anna Young

Tomas Gelezinis, 31, is one of four Lithuanian men on trial for murdering Italian waiter Joele Leotta.

The others are Aleksandras Zuravliovas, 27, of Beaumont Road, Saulius Tamoliunas, 24, of Union Street, and Linas Zidonis, 21, of no fixed address.

Joele Leotta

Joele Leotta

Mr Leotta, 20, was fatally injured in a bedsit above Vesuvius restaurant in Lower Stone Street, Maidstone, which he shared with childhood friend Alex Galbiati.

The jury has heard the incident on October 20, 2013, happened in two stages. 

Gelezinis yesterday (Thursday) told Maidstone Crown Court he tried to calm the men down after the first fight with the two Italians.

He said: “They said they (were) going back to the flat… I heard ‘going to beat up or kill’, but because of the noise I’m not sure [who said it].”

Zidonis, Zuravliovas and Tamoliunas had been drinking together before visiting Romens Klovas, also Lithuanian, who shared a room with Gelezinis on the top floor above Vesuvius.

The jury was told Gelezinis, who has a three-year-old daughter, tried to intervene when a fight broke out between Klovas and Tamoliunas over work.

Gelezinis said he asked the visitors to leave when Tamoliunas and Zuravliovas began pushing each other.

He said: “I said I didn’t want any nonsense, and then a few minutes after they came, they started attacking Klovas.”

Gelezinis indicated he had been reluctant for them to visit as the landlord, Amrat Gohil, had asked them to move out because of a noise complaint but Philippa McAtasney, prosecuting, accused the 31-year-old of lying. 

She said: "You were the only defendant who actually lived at Lower Stone Street. None of the other three did. You knew Mr Gohil did not want you having visitors."

Miss McAtasney added: "(You were) friendly enough to invite them over to your house to drink with you at 9.45pm on the day you knew you were evicted."

Gelezinis told the court he heard shouting shortly after the three men left and saw the them standing outside the Italians’ room.

He said the door was slightly open, and one of the Italians was waving a stick. “I was saying stop, to calm down," he said. 

The defendant claimed he turned to go back to his room when he was pulled to the floor. He said one of the Italians sat on top of him and began biting his arm.

He said: “I was shouting for help...because he was biting me and I was scared.” Gelezinis said someone was using a stick or pole to hit the Italian on the back and struck his legs.

The defendant said he ran upstairs when the Italian was pulled off him, and left with Lukas Lementauskas, who lived on the second floor.

The pair ran into the other three men in Knightrider Street, which is when Gelezinis said he asked them not to go back.

Gelezinis was arrested the next day when he voluntarily went to Maidstone police station.

When asked about his relationship with the other three defendants, Geleznis told the court: “We are not friends and we are not enemies.”

Alex Galbiati with best friend Joele Leotta, who was fatally injured in a Maidstone bedsit

Alex Galbiati with best friend Joele Leotta, who was fatally injured in a Maidstone bedsit

Prosecutors claim the four defendants forced their way into the Italians’ accommodation and attacked them because they wrongly assumed the boys made a noise complaint.

Geleznis had told the jury this week he did not know the Italians were living in the building but Miss McAtasney referred to his police statement. 

During his interview, Gelezinis said he knew the two boys had been moved in two days before the attack and confirmed he was told the complaint was made by someone who worked at Vesuvius. 

Miss McAtasney said: "You told the jury you had no idea who made the complaint about the noise but you did know, didn't you? Because Mr Gohil had told you.

"You told your three friends - Linas, Aleksandras and Saulius - that there had been a complaint."

In the police statement, Gelezinis said the other defendants found out about the complaint on the same day as the fatal incident. 

Mr Galbiati and Mr Leotta, who suffered 100 injuries, had only been in the country for six days when the incident took place. They had secured work at the Italian restaurant. 

All four deny murdering Mr Leotta and wounding Mr Galbiati with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

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