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Prison confession of rape lands murderer of grandmother extra five years

 (PA)
(PA)

A convicted murderer who admitted raping his vulnerable victim has been sentenced to a further five years in jail.

Valentin Lazar, 23, attacked 45-year-old Maria Rawlings before leaving her in undergrowth in Romford, east London, in May 2021.

The manual labourer admitted the murder and was jailed for life with a minimum term of 23 years and six months in February 2022.

The following month, Lazar, formerly of Newham, east London, admitted to an officer at Belmarsh prison that he had also raped Ms Rawlings.

Valentin Lazar (Metropolitan Police/PA) (PA Media)
Valentin Lazar (Metropolitan Police/PA) (PA Media)

On Friday, Judge Mark Lucraft handed Lazar a further five years’ imprisonment to run consecutively to his life sentence.

The judge said: “In the admissions you made you said you removed Maria’s clothing before then raping her.

“You knew Maria was not consenting to sexual intercourse and that then having killed her you took her handbag to make it look like a robbery.”

The further sentence effectively defers the date the defendant can be considered for release.

The court heard that at the time of Lazar’s sentencing for murder there was not enough evidence to establish any sexual motive which would have raised the starting point for the original sentence.

In mitigation, Christopher Whitehouse said that Lazar had wanted to “unburden himself” and that it was hoped the guilty plea would bring “a degree of finality for the victim’s family”.

According to the victim’s father Tony, “15 minutes of anger” towards the defenceless grandmother had caused him and his family a lifetime of pain.

At Lazar’s sentencing in 2022, the court heard how Ms Rawlings had visited King George Hospital in Chadwell Heath complaining of a headache after suffering a head injury on the evening of May 3 2021.

Having left hospital without being treated, Ms Rawlings got on a bus just after 11pm, where her path crossed with Lazar’s.

The mother of two, who had been staying with her daughter in Witham, Essex, got off the bus when it terminated, along with her killer.

They appeared on CCTV to engage in a brief conversation before Lazar guided his victim by the arm towards some shrubbery where they disappeared from view.

After 31 minutes, he emerged from the undergrowth alone, with Ms Rawlings’s white handbag slung over his shoulder.

He rifled through the bag then discarded it on the pavement, the court heard.

After the attack, Lazar boarded another bus, eventually arriving home after 1am.