Man jailed for murder of woman in Redbridge

A man who attacked and killed a woman following a chance meeting in Redbridge has been jailed.

Valentin Lazar, 21, of Hockley Avenue, E6 appeared at the Old Bailey on Thursday, February 3 where he was sentenced to life imprisonment to serve a minimum of 23-and-a-half years. Due to his guilty plea the sentence was reduced from 28 years.

Lazar, who will also remain on license for the remainder of his life, had previously pleaded guilty to the murder of 45-year-old grandmother Maria Rawlings at the same court on November 19, 2021.

VICTIM: Maria Rawlings

Lazar had encountered Ms Rawlings in Ilford on May 3, 2021 as they both travelled on a bus at just after 11pm.

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 in Little Heath – after around 30 minutes Lazar re-appeared on CCTV without Maria but in possession of a distinctive handbag she was carrying.

He then boarded another bus and left the area.

Ms Rawling’s body was discovered at around 2pm the following day. Police found some of Maria’s 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 Maria 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. Within a day, Lazar had been identified and arrested.

Detective Inspector Adam Callaghan, of the Met’s Specialist Crime Command, said: “Within an hour of meeting Lazar, Maria was left for dead in the bushes where she was found.

“His shockingly violent actions resulted in a vulnerable woman’s future being taken from her and a family left devastated.

“Today’s sentence brings the legal proceedings to a close and I hope that Maria’s family can find a measure of closure in knowing that the man who took her from them has been removed from society where he can no longer pose a threat to women. Our thoughts are with them today.”

Maria’s father, said: “My family and I have endured the most horrific eight months imaginable at the hands of a predator who decided to take my vulnerable, beautiful, daughter Maria’s life.

“Maria was a mother to Katie and Charlie, a grandmother to Jay, Joe and Teddy, and a sister to Tony and Terry. Our lives have been changed forever. The impact will never end. How as a family we go forward without Maria is unthinkable, we are heart broken.

“We are truly grateful to the Metropolitan Police and the legal team who have worked so tirelessly, with such speed and professionalism to bring justice for Maria. We cannot thank them enough for their constant support throughout this painful time.”

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Mick Ferris

Editor Email: [email protected]