Maria Rawlings murder: Valentin Lazar, 21, pleads GUILTY to murder of woman, 45, found dead in bush in Romford

A MAN has today pleaded guilty to murdering a mum who was found dead in a bush earlier this year.

Valentin Lazar, 21, admitted strangling and beating Maria Jane Rawlings, 45, to death in Romford, East London, in May.

Lazar, of Barking, today pleaded guilty to the mum’s death at the Old Bailey.

Grandmother Maria was discovered by a dog walker in bushes outside of a school on May 4, sparking a murder investigation.

Her family placed bouquets at the scene, alongside a tribute which read:"Mummy. I love you now, forever and always. In this s*** world you made things brighter.

"Forever my angel. Your big baby."

A message from her grandsons read: "Nanny, we love you soo much, we will never forget you. Your boys."

A post-mortem examination at Walthamstow Mortuary found injuries to her mouth, chest and knee as well as 13 fractured ribs.

Police say Maria had attended the King George Hospital in Goodmayes, Ilford, the day before her death after suffering a fall.

She then left on foot on Barley Lane in the direction of the A12.

The court heard that Lazar had followed her off a bus and allegedly targeted her because she was a vulnerable woman alone at night.

At an earlier hearing, the prosecutor, Paul Jarvis, had 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."

When police arrested Lazar on May 9, he claimed he had no memory of the attack, adding “I can't remember what happened yesterday”.

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.

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

"He had also left behind the baseball cap he had been wearing previously at the scene of the murder.

“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.”

Ms Rawlings' two daughters sat in court for the short hearing earlier today as Lazar entered his guilty plea.

Sentencing was adjourned until January 10 next year.

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