August 2023

Exeter rapist jailed for 18 years

A serial sex attacker from Romania who stalked his victim as she made her way home from a night out before raping her in a graveyard has been jailed for 18 years.

Convicted rapist Cosmin-Nicolae Vasioiu, 47, prowled Exeter city centre looking for a lone woman to attack in June last year.

The Romania national followed his victim as she walked home from a night out with friends and attacked her in the grounds of St Bartholomew’s Cemetery.

She tried to fight him off, but he stripped her naked and raped her and only fled when she screamed, which alerted residents living nearby to her plight.

CCTV footage captures Vasioiu in Exeter High Street prior to the attack trying to identify possible targets.

Footage also clearly showed Vasioiu following his victim, who is a woman in her 30s, through the Iron Bridge area of Exeter.

Exeter Crown Court heard Vasioiu had come to Britain after serving a prison sentence for a near-identical rape of an 18-year-old woman in Switzerland in 2014.

He remained in the UK after Brexit but did not apply for EU settled status, which meant his previous convictions were not flagged to the authorities.

Vasioiu was living in a garden shed and doing gardening work when he carried out his latest sex attack. Afterwards he shaved off his beard and hair and got a friend to wash his clothes and shoes.

Felicity Payne, prosecuting, told the court the offence was planned and had been committed while Vasioiu was the subject of a community order for theft and assault.

“The prosecution say, and put their case in this way during the trial, that he was trawling the city centre seeking to identify targets for sexual assault,” she said. “He did just that when he identified the victim. At that point in time, she was significantly worse for wear due to intoxication.

“He was captured on CCTV following the victim and altering his course, crossing the road, and his pace is seen to quicken as he follows her. The victim made efforts to fight the defendant but was unable to resist. She ultimately began to scream for help and the defendant ran off.

“When she was located she was naked and her clothing strewn about the cemetery.”

The defendant, of Topsham Road, Exeter, had denied rape but was convicted by a jury following a trial after DNA evidence linked him to the victim. Pushpanjali Gohil, defending, said: “There is little mitigation I can advance given the offence was denied.”

Recorder Malcolm Galloway ruled Vasioiu posed a danger to women due to the risk of further offending and imposed an extended sentence.

Vasioiu was jailed for 18 years with an extended period of five years on licence and will have to serve at least 12 years’ imprisonment before he can apply for parole.

“The CCTV from the city centre that the police were able to obtain after the rape is clear and chilling,” the judge said. “You were patrolling Exeter city centre looking for lone vulnerable women. The CCTV shows you stopping outside late-night drinking establishments and observing from doorways.

“I have no doubt you were waiting for an opportunity to present itself. It is plain from the available CCTV that anyone observing your victim as you did would immediately be aware that she was heavily under the influence of alcohol and vulnerable.

CCTV shows Vasioiu following his victim through the Iron Bridge area of Exeter

“The attack and its aftermath have had a profound and prolonged effect upon her, and she is still living with what happened to her that night.” The judge said Vasioiu did not regret the offence and saw himself as the victim.

“I agree with the comment of the probation service that your misogyny and sexual preoccupation and your distorted view of consent are all likely to lead to you reoffending,” he said. “I have no doubt that you continue and will continue for the foreseeable future to pose a significant risk of further sexual offences.”

Vasioiu was also placed on the sex offenders’ register for life. Speaking afterwards, Detective Sergeant Samantha Wenham, from the Major Crime Investigation Team, said: “I welcome today’s sentence after Cosmin-Nicolae Vasioiu was found guilty of rape during a trial in May.

“He 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.”

It is expected that Vasioiu will serve his sentence in the UK, before being deported back to Romania.