A CHANCE MEETING sent Maria Rawlings, 45, to her death – and sent her murderer, Valentin Lazar, 21, to prison for over 20 years. The two met on a bus at just after 11pm on 3rd May last year. They had not known each other before.
Maria’s body was found at 2pm the following day. Police were called and found her purse, bank cards and footwear nearby – along with a cap that they would later identify as belonging to Lazar. A post mortem later determined that Maria had been violently assaulted, leading to multiple fractures to her ribs, and then killed after some form of compression to the neck.
Police began an investigation, which included looking at footage from the area where she had been found and from buses which served the area. They spotted Maria, who was talking to a man. The bus terminated at Little Heath and the two got off.
Other CCTV footage saw them both walking through the area and then going into an area of shrubbery. Half an hour later, Lazar was picked up by CCTV cameras coming out of the shrubbery: Maria was not with him, but he was carrying her distinctive handbag. He then got on another bus and left the area. Police circulated a clear image of the man to the public, and he was later identified as Valentin Lazar of Hockley Avenue, E6.
Lazar was arrested the following day and charged with the murder of Maria Rawlings. Lazar appeared at the Old Bailey last November, where he pleaded guilty. He returned to the Court at the start of February, where he was sentenced to life imprisonment and ordered to serve a minimum term of 23 years and six months. The minimum time he had to serve was reduced from 28 years on account of his “not guilty” please. Lazar will remain on licence for life.
Detective Inspector Adam Callaghan of the Metropolitan Police Specialist Crime Command said, “[Lazar’s] shockingly violent actions resulted in a vulnerable woman’s future being taken from her and a family left devastated. […] Our thoughts are with them today. 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 to ensure that all London’s communities feel safe and this is something we, as an organisation, remain deeply committed to achieving.”
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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