Man, 21, pleads guilty to murder of woman after chance meeting on bus in Redbridge

A man who attacked and killed a woman following a chance meeting in Redbridge has admitted her murder.

Valentin Lazar, 21, of Hockley Avenue, E6, pleaded guilty to murdering Maria Rawlings, 45, at a hearing at the Old Bailey on Friday, November 19. He was remanded in custody to appear for sentencing at the same court on January 10, 2022.

Lazar encountered Ms Rawlings as they both travelled on a bus just after 11pm on May 3 in Ilford.

The pair, who were not previously known to each other, were captured on CCTV footage talking to each other after both got off the bus where it terminated in Little Heath.

Lazar could be seen on the footage leading Maria to an area of shrubbery. After around 30 minutes he re-appears on without her but in possession of the distinctive handbag she was carrying.

He then boarded another bus and left the area.

Maria’s body was discovered at around 2pm the following day. Officers found some of her items discarded nearby including her purse, footwear and bank cards. They also recovered a cap that would later be identified as belonging to Lazar.

A post-mortem examination revealed that she had been killed following compression to her neck; she had also been subjected to a violent assault which resulted in multiple fractures to her ribs.

An investigation began which included the analysis of CCTV from the local area and bus network. After securing a clear image of Lazar – whose identity was not known at the time – a decision was taken to circulate this publicly in an attempt to identify him. Within a day, Lazar had been identified and arrested.

Detective Inspector Adam Callaghan of the Met’s Specialist Crime Command said: “Maria was a vulnerable lady who was subjected to a shocking level of violence at the hands of Lazar. Within an hour of them meeting by chance on that bus, Maria was left for dead in the bushes where she was found.

“Her family have been left devastated by Lazar’s actions and while his guilty plea may bring a small measure of comfort, it will be of little help repairing the damage they must live with for the rest of their lives.

“Violence against women in our society is all too prevalent and the Met fully recognises the fear and concern that an incident like this brings. As police officers, our job is ensure all London’s communities feel safe and this is something we, as an organisation, are deeply committed to achieving.”

Mick Ferris

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