A MYSOGINIST rapist who followed a single woman through Exeter before attacking her in a graveyard has been jailed for 18 years after a judge declared that he is a danger to women.
Cosmin-Nicolae Vasioiu spent an hour and 45 minutes lurking around Exeter waiting for a victim before he spotted the woman, who was walking home on her own after a drunken night out with friends.
He was filmed on CCTV breaking into a run as he hurried to catch up with her near the Iron Bridge before attacking her in the nearby Catacombs cemetery.
Residents in Exe Street were woken by her screams as she tried to fight him off and she was found naked, bruised and hysterical with fear.
Police have praised her courage and sought to reassure women that Exeter remains a safe city.
Vasioiu is a Romanian national who came to Britain after serving a prison sentence for a near identical rape in Vaud, Switzerland, in 2014, for which he was jailed in 2016.
He remained in Britain after Brexit without going through the proper registration process which may have flagged up his previous convictions. He also has convictions for burglary or theft from Romania, Greece, Austria and Switzerland.
He was living in a garden shed and doing gardening work at the time when he carried out the new rape on June 18 last year.
Vasioiu, aged 47, of Topsham Road, Exeter, denied rape but was found guilty by a jury at Exeter Crown Court after a trial in May in which he chose not to give evidence.
He was jailed for 18 years with a five extended sentence as a dangerous offender by Recorder Mr Malcolm Galloway at Exeter Crown Court.
He told Vasioiu: 'The CCTV from the city centre the police were able to obtain after the rape is clear and chilling. You were patrolling Exeter city centre looking for lone vulnerable women.
'The CCTV shows you walking around, stopping outside late night drinking establishments and observing them from doorways.
"I have no doubt you were waiting for an opportunity to present itself. I have no doubt you were selecting potential young women as targets that night.
'The attack and its aftermath have had a profound and prolonged effect upon the victim.
'She is still living with what happened to her that night and is plainly not coping over a year after the rape took place.
'Her personality has been substantially affected and she is not the vibrant young woman she used to be.
'Importantly, the incident and the affect it has had on her has meant that she has had to abandon her job and the business she spent years building up.
'Having watched the courage this young woman has shown by giving evidence, I can only wish her my best and thank her for her bravery and dignity when giving her evidence which resulted in this conviction.
'I have no doubt that you continue and will continue for the foreseeable future to pose a significant risk of further sexual offending and as such pose a significant risk of serious harm to the public.
'Taking into account the extent of your dangerousness in particular your previous offending, your attitude to women and consent and your age, I find the appropriate extension period for which you will be subject to licence will be 5 years.”
The judge also quoted from a probation pre-sentence report in which Vasioiu continued to claim that the victim consented and said he believed many women to go on nights out are looking for sex with strangers.
The report said: 'Mr Vasioiu has not expressed any regret for his behaviour beyond the impact that it will have on his own future.
'When I asked him directly who had been harmed, he identified himself as the sole victim given the time that he is likely to spend in custody.
'Re Thinking and behaviour: – He has also said that it is equally reasonable for men to approach lone women at night and to ask them for sex, with him expressing the belief that women often welcome such advances, particularly if they have enjoyed a night out with drink and are in a lively mood.
'He has said that he does not consider such behaviour to be distressing for women and that a casual sexual encounter is often the reason why they go out alone at night.
'Mr Vasioiu’s beliefs are of very real concern, suggesting that he is at a very high risk of committing further offences against women, justified by his belief that they have consented and that he is not doing anything wrong.
'Misogynism, sexual preoccupation, a disregard for the rights of others and distorted views of consent and sexual offending are likely to be contributory factors to any future offending behaviour.'
During the trial, the jury heard that police were able to piece together his movements in the 105 minutes before the attack through more than a dozen different CCTV clips from city centre surveillance cameras and those from shops and pubs.
The footage showed him hanging around outside the Chevalier Pub and Vaults night club and following another lone woman before approaching her and being brushed off.
The victim had been drinking for ten hours before leaving a city centre pub and was walking home on her own after eating a McDonalds. She was vulnerable because she was drunk.
Her clothes and belongings were found nearby along with Vasioiu’s baseball cap which he dropped as he fled.
Vasioiu denied having been in the area but changed his story after CCTV showed him following the woman into the Catacombs.
He denied attacking her until DNA showed it was him, when he claimed she had consented.
He conned a friend into washing his clothes to destroy evidence and shaved his head to try to change his appearance to confuse the police.
Miss Fern Schofield, in mitigation, said the case was not so serious as to require a life sentence and that the physical and psychological effect on the victim were not as great as is found in some cases.
Victim praised for showing great courage and strength
After the case, Detective Sergeant Samantha Wenham, from the Major Crime Investigation Team, said: 'Cosmin-Nicolae Vasioiu preyed on a lone female who he had never met and subjected her to a vicious attack without remorse.
'He then returned to where he was staying and proceeded to bag up his clothes which he gave to an unwitting friend to wash, before shaving off his long hair in an attempt to change his appearance and destroy evidence linking him to the attack.
'This was a calculated and planned act in which Vasioiu has shown absolutely no remorse throughout.
'The response from the public to our appeals was vital in us securing the CCTV footage that was key in us being able to identify and arrest Vasioiu.
'The investigative team went above and beyond to gain the evidence needed to prove beyond any doubt that Vasioiu was the attacker.
'This included numerous international enquiries which led to the team discovering that Vasioiu had a prior conviction in Switzerland that matched up with the attack that took place in Exeter; both in how they were carried out and Vasioiu’s actions post-attack.
'This allowed us to take the rare step of being able to share Vasioiu’s previous bad character and offending history with the jury during the trial, which was vital in securing the conviction.
'My team and I want to take a moment to recognise the victim in this case.
'She has been through an horrific ordeal that no person should be subjected to and showed great courage and strength throughout the investigation and criminal justice process.
'She put her faith in us, and I hope today’s result will help her to move on and contribute to her recovery from this ordeal.
No-one should feel unsafe on our streets
Superintendent Antony Hart, policing commander for Exeter, said: 'No-one should feel unsafe on our streets, and each and every one of us has the right to be able to walk home without the fear of attack.
'Today’s sentencing reflects the seriousness of the offence and the impact this incident has had on the victim.
'We will continue to do everything in our power to bring attackers to justice and to prevent further similar offences occurring, both through proactive policing and by working with a range of partner agencies in the city.'
HELP IS AVAILABLE
If you require help or assistance relating to sexual abuse please take a look at the below list of helplines.
In an emergency always call 999 and in a non-emergency please visit www.dc.police.uk/contact.
National Rape Crisis Helpline: 0808 802 9999
Devon and Cornwall Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARC): 0300 3034626
Devon, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Independent Sexual Advisor Service: 03458 121212
Victim Care Unit: 01392 475900
Devon Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Services: 01392 204 174
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