Man pleads guilty to murdering vulnerable lone woman after following her off bus

·3-min read
Maria Rawlings (Family Handout/PA) (PA Wire)
Maria Rawlings (Family Handout/PA) (PA Wire)

A violent predator is facing life behind bars for murdering a vulnerable lone woman after following her off a bus in London.

Valentin Lazar, 21, inflicted multiple injuries on 45-year-old Maria Rawlings before leaving her in undergrowth in Romford

Ms Rawlings was attacked after visiting accident and emergency following a fall.

Having left hospital without being seen, she got on a bus in Romford just after 11pm on May 3, where her path crossed with Lazar.

Valentin Lazar is a violent man who has shown little remorse for his actions

Emma Currie, CPS

The mother of two had only been on the bus for about 10 minutes when it terminated and she and the defendant got off.

Lazar was caught on CCTV as he guided his victim towards some shrubbery.

After about 30 minutes, he emerged from the undergrowth alone carrying her handbag, the Old Bailey had heard.

Prosecutor Paul Jarvis had told a previous hearing that Ms Rawlings was targeted by Lazar because she was a vulnerable woman alone at night.

He said: “He was probably carrying a knife.

“He led her into the bushes before violently attacking her and ultimately killing her before stealing some of her belongings and walking off.”

After the attack, Lazar boarded a bus towards Dagenham, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said.

Ms Rawlings’ naked body was found concealed in undergrowth by a dog walker at about 2.30pm the next day in the Little Heath area.

Maria Rawlings (Family Handout/PA) (PA Wire)
Maria Rawlings (Family Handout/PA) (PA Wire)

She had suffered multiple injuries to her mouth, chest and knee as well as 13 fractured ribs but there were no signs of sexual assault.

A baseball cap with the defendant’s DNA on it was left near to the body.

Following a media appeal, Lazar, who was living in rented accommodation in East Ham, was identified on social media.

On his arrest, officers found clothes matching those of the attacker with traces of blood on them.

On Friday, Ms Rawlings’ two grown-up daughters sat in court as the defendant pleaded guilty to murder with the assistance of a Romanian interpreter.

The court was told that he admitted murder but denied he intended to kill Ms Rawlings or that he had a knife.

Remanding the defendant into custody, Judge Peter Rook QC said: “You have pleaded guilty to murder in a case of the utmost seriousness.

“There is only one sentence the court can pass and that is one of life imprisonment. A judge will decide the minimum that you must serve.”

Women should be free to travel through London without fearing violent attacks

Emma Currie, CPS

The case was adjourned until January 10 next year.

Emma Currie, from the CPS, said: “Maria Rawlings was a vulnerable woman. She had attended A&E on the night of her murder, but tragically left before she was seen.

“The prosecution case included DNA and footprint evidence as well as CCTV footage which caught Lazar leaving with the handbag Ms Rawlings had been wearing earlier that evening.

“Valentin Lazar is a violent man who has shown little remorse for his actions.

“When initially arrested he even claimed to suffer from memory loss, saying ‘I can’t remember what happened yesterday’.

Women should be free to travel through London without fearing violent attacks.

“The CPS is committed to bringing offenders to justice in respect of violence against women and girls. I hope this conviction provides some sense of justice for the family and friends of Ms Rawlings. Our thoughts remain with them at this time.”

The murder of Ms Rawlings comes amid heightened concern for the safety of lone women following a spate of predatory stranger attacks.

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