Man who spent 18 years in prison for rape he did not commit cries as he is freed

The heartbreaking moment a man was acquitted after spending 18 years behind bars for a rape and murder he did not commit was caught on video.

In the video, Tomasz Komenda is seen shedding tears of relief as a panel of judges declared him innocent. Overcome with emotions, he cries and buries his face in his hands.

Mr Komenda was accused of raping a 15-year-old on New Year's Eve in Poland in 1997. The victim was raped and murdered during a 1997 New Year party in south-western Poland. Court documents showed she died from blood loss and freezing temperatures. When police found her body, they initially predicted there were multiple suspects who left behind a large amount of evidence, including a woolly hat containing hairs and bite marks on the girl’s body. Mr Komenda was jailed several years after the crime, despite 12 people confirming his alibi that he was over two miles away from the scene at the time.
But the parents of the victim expressed doubts about Komenda's guilt and, as a result, prosecutors reviewed his case. A review of previous evidence using new forensic tests proved he could not have committed the crimes.

Mr Komenda, now 42, was released from prison in March after spending 18 years behind bars.

Upon his release, he said: "For the last 18 years I have been asking myself: What have I done wrong to have my life turned into hell? All that time, I was treated like filth."

In explaining the verdict, the court said advanced forensic techniques had shed new light on the evidence collected at the time and excluded Mr Komenda as the killer. It also pointed to mistakes in the process of gathering evidence and to a negligent approach to testimony from the defence witnesses.

At the time Komenda was arrested he complied fully with police, but says he was beaten and threatened and said: "They beat me so much that I would have even admitted to shooting the Pope."

Justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro said the acquittal shows that the mistakes of the justice system can be corrected.

"No one can give back the years that Tomasz Komenda has lost. Still, the acquittal restores the sense of dignity of an innocent man who had been wrongly convicted," he said.

Mr Komenda’s lawyer, Zbigniew Cwiakalski, said he will seek more than 10 million zlotys (£2 million) in damages for Mr Komenda for the wrongful conviction and his years in prison.

An investigation into the failings has been launched.

Watch the emotional moment Komenda was acquitted below.
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