Libby Squire’s body was discovered in the Humber estuary almost seven weeks after she was reported missing on February 1, 2019
She had long dark hair, a smile that lit up a room, a boyfriend who adored her and a loving family. Clever and compassionate, Libby Squire’s future brimmed with promise.
Then, in January 2019, she seemingly vanished. It was seven weeks before the decomposed body of the 21-year-old Hull University student was discovered in the Humber estuary, her gold necklace bearing the letter L still around her neck.
It would be another seven months before a man would be charged with her rape and murder.
That man was Pawel Relowicz. Yesterday, more than two years after her disappearance, a jury at Sheffield Crown Court finally convicted the Polish butcher of both crimes.
On the night she disappeared, Relowicz, 26, a married father of two who had carried out a string of other sexually-motivated crimes in the months leading up to his attack on Libby, had been searching for women to prey on.
When he spotted the philosophy undergraduate – distressed and vulnerable – he lured her into his car and drove her to a nearby park, where he raped her before dragging her body to the freezing water of the River Hull that bordered the playing field.
How utterly gruelling his 18-day trial must have been for Libby’s distraught parents, mother Lisa, 50 – a nurse so close to her daughter she described their relationship as ‘almost as one’ – and father Russell, 55.
That Relowicz, impassive on hearing the verdict in court yesterday and due to be sentenced today, lied consistently about his whereabouts and intentions on the night in question, can only have made their grief harder to bear.
‘As a family, today’s verdict changes nothing for us,’ said Lisa, dressed in black and speaking outside court yesterday. ‘There is no closure, we don’t get to have Libby back, our lives don’t revert back to normal.’
So what happened on the fateful night that Libby died? And why did it take so long for her killer to be held to account?
Relowicz persistently claimed he had been trying to help Libby, who had been turned away from a nightclub for being too drunk on the night of January 31 and was trying to get home.
At first, his Good Samaritan act seemed plausible. Clean-shaven, bespectacled and brought up by a devoutly Catholic mother, he had moved to the UK from Poland eight years ago to build a better life, and had just become a father for the second time.
On Facebook he proudly posted a picture of himself with his pretty blonde wife, who he married in 2018, wearing scrubs and an expression of pride as she cradled their newborn son.
‘My son and wife bring me the greatest happiness, I don’t need anyone else in life,’ he wrote.
That he could have had any involvement in Libby’s disappearance was greeted with incredulity by those who knew him.
His mother – who said she would ‘rather die than know he is guilty’ – described him as a ‘kind and loving’ man, while his elder sister insisted he had been raised to be ‘good’ and ‘hard-working’.
Relowicz (pictured left and right) picked Libby up just off Hull’s Beverley Road at around midnight on January 31, 2019
A colleague at Karro Food group, where he worked in the bacon factory in Malton, North Yorks, recalled a ‘quiet, normal person’.
However, a neighbour on Hull’s Raglan Street, where the family rented a two-bedroom terraced home, added: ‘He was constantly shouting at her. He treated her like a dog.’
Nonetheless, according to her friend, she had ‘no idea’ of the depths her husband, with whom she also had a four-year-old, could plummet.
With no prior convictions to make him known to police, even they were unaware that Relowicz was behind a string of sexually-motivated crimes until they arrested him in February 2019 in connection with Libby’s disappearance.
Footage from CCTV and security cameras had led them to track the car they believed Libby had climbed into on the night she died.
When police began investigating his background, it emerged he had broken into homes in his largely student area of Hull to steal intimate items, secretly watched people having sex and committed indecent acts in public, during what a judge described as a ‘campaign of sexually deviant criminality’ that left his victims traumatised.
That August – as police continued to investigate him in connection with Libby’s disappearance – Relowicz pleaded guilty to nine offences, including three counts of burglary, one of voyeurism and one of outraging public decency.
He was sentenced to eight and a half years at Sheffield Crown Court – reduced on appeal to five years and eight months.
That Libby’s path should cross with his that freezing January night was the result of calculated planning on his part.
A second year student living with three other girls, grammar school-educated Libby was a hard worker and, her mother says, possessed of a ‘wicked sense of humour’.
But her earlier years had not always been easy. The eldest of four siblings, Libby, who grew up in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, had developed the eating disorder bulimia aged 13 and began to self-harm at around the same time, cutting herself on her legs, arms and chest, causing scars that remained long after she conquered her illness.
Supporting Libby during this dark time brought Lisa closer to her daughter.
‘I would help her clean herself up, dress her wounds and would always make sure she had antiseptic wipes and plasters,’ she told the court, her anguish hauntingly prescient of the despair to come. ‘I always worried about Libby and often feared that one day I would find her dead in her bedroom.’
Aged 15, Libby was referred to her local community adolescence mental health service (CAMHS). Around this time, she met her boyfriend, Connor Pye, on a night out.
Beguiled by what he described as her ‘meticulous, caring and methodical’ personality, Connor told the court: ‘She was like a closed book and this made her very interesting.’ With Connor by her side, Libby became more resilient, and their six-year relationship, conducted long-distance after she moved to Hull, grew stronger.
‘There was not a minute of a day that we were not in contact,’ Connor said in a statement read to court. ‘Even when she was in lectures and I was in work.’
Connor, who had messaged Libby to say he loved her just an hour before she disappeared, added: ‘We had plans to be with each other for the rest of our lives. We talked about marriage, children, when she finished university.’
So, having fought back from a period of poor mental health during her teenage years Libby was, as Lisa put it, in ‘the best place in her life she had ever been’.
She had spent the evening of January 31 drinking rose wine at a friend’s house before they left for a night out at student club The Welly. At 11.20pm, after being turned away for being intoxicated, her friends put her in a taxi.
Instead of letting herself into her home on Wellesley Avenue, however, she staggered down the street in the opposite direction, towards Beverley Road. Several witnesses who saw her over the next half-hour recall her sobbing, stumbling and unwilling to accept offers of help.
Her denim mini skirt and faux leather jacket offered little protection against the -3C chill – and in court it was claimed hypothermia had further hindered her capacity for rational thought.
By the time Relowicz laid eyes on her, on Beverley Road at around midnight, she had dropped her keys. With no mobile phone – she had left it at home – she could scarcely have been more vulnerable.
CCTV captured Libby getting into the passenger seat of Relowicz’s Vauxhall Astra, before he drove his victim to a nearby park, Oak Road Playing Fields.
Libby’s mother Lisa spoke outside court alongside her husband Russell Squire
CCTV captured Relowicz scouting the area earlier in the evening, footage which was played to court. As the prosecution said, he knew ‘that this was a quiet dark place where he was unlikely to be disturbed’.
In the minutes that followed, a witness who lives on the edge of the fields heard loud female screams.
He then saw a man run from the river and back to the road. Libby was never seen again. At 2.25am, Relowicz returned to the fields – either to dispose of Libby’s body or to ensure he had left no evidence of his crime.
He changed his clothes and the next morning, a neighbour spotted him cleaning his car.
As the search for Libby began, and her distraught mother spoke of her ‘utter heartbreak’, Relowicz was identified from his Vauxhall picked up on CCTV, and arrested on February 6.
But three days later, he was released pending further inquiries.
It was only when Libby’s body was found and the post mortem carried out that sperm cells yielding DNA that matched Relowicz were detected and police had enough evidence to re-arrest him.
By the time Relowicz was charged with Libby’s murder that October, he was already in prison for his earlier crimes, details of which were permitted as evidence in court to provide ‘context’ to his claims that he had been trying to help Libby.
The jury learned his sickening spree had begun in July 2017, when he watched a 23-year-old student having sex with her boyfriend in her bedroom, running away only when she screamed.
Later that night, the student’s housemate came home to find a used condom and lacy thong on the front door handle – the first of several obscene calling cards Relowicz left at the scene.
The woman says she became an ’emotional wreck’ afterwards.
A week later Relowicz – who watched pornography online before telling his wife he was going out ‘running’ – had broken into another woman’s house, where he left an unwrapped condom near a child’s toy, later returning to watch her dancing in the lounge in a bra and leggings.
On another occasion, he broke into a house and watched a naked student drying herself after a shower. After the woman got into bed, she saw a man’s face at the window ‘staring right at me’. She said: ‘I froze, I was so scared.’
Other young women reported Relowicz for committing a sex act on the street in front of them, and on January 26, 2019 – just five days before Libby disappeared – he broke into a shared student house through an unlocked window and stole vibrators, condoms, a sex game dice and photographs.
They were discovered in a pink holdall in his car after his arrest, along with several items of women’s underwear.
Relowicz insisted sex with Libby had been consensual and that he had left her alive.
His defence argued Libby had wandered off to the river as a ‘cry for help’ and claimed her mental health troubles had somehow caused her death. But nobody who knew Libby believed her remotely suicidal on the night she died.
Relowicz’s mother Marzena said last night that her son had phoned her following the verdicts and ‘cried like a little baby’ and told her they ‘wronged’ him.
‘I believe him because I know him,’ she said. ‘Something isn’t right there.’
The post mortem could not determine a cause of death, with any potential evidence on Libby’s body washed away after weeks underwater. But, as prosecutor Richard Wright QC reminded the jury, ‘it is not necessary to demonstrate any particular mechanism of death in this, or indeed in any other case of murder.’
That Libby would have wandered off towards the River Hull after midnight, when she was not only so frightened of water she’d avoid the swimming pool on family holidays but was also scared of the dark, was as inconceivable as her trying to end her life, her mother said.
‘I know she would never voluntarily put herself in water, especially moving water, as she would be too terrified,’ said Lisa, who added: ‘She would never go anywhere in the dark.’
She said of her daughter: ‘Libby will always be with us and we are all so proud of our beautiful, caring, wonderful girl. And, although she has been physically taken from us, the memories we have and the love we share will never be taken.’
Detective Superintendent Martin Smalley, who led the Humberside Police inquiry, said it was the most challenging and emotional case of his 30-year career.
He said he wanted to ‘wholeheartedly commend Libby’s family for their incredible strength throughout the entire investigation and trial’, adding: ‘I can’t comprehend how they must have felt over these past two years.’
In her statement read out to court, Lisa said that during her daughter’s earlier teenage years, her mental health was so poor that Lisa ‘never really thought I would have Libby for the rest of my life’.
What a bitter irony that Libby successfully fought her demons, only to have the happiness she had finally found cruelly eliminated by the murderous intentions of a truly twisted individual.
Tips to Find Low Priced Luxury Holiday Package Deals Fast