A 20-year-old man has been jailed for six years and eight months after admitting the attempted rape of a 25-year-old woman in the Shakers Lane area of Bury St Edmunds in May 2015.
Andu Nedelcu, of Călineşti, Arges County, Romania, appeared before Ipswich Crown Court on Tuesday afternoon, 5 April, where he pleaded guilty to attempted rape.
He had previously appeared at the court on Friday 4 March where he pleaded guilty to sexual assault, causing a female to engage in sexual activity and assault in relation to the attack, which happened around 10.20pm on Monday 11 May.
A trial was scheduled for July on the attempted rape charge but he pleaded guilty to this offence on Tuesday and today, Friday 8 April, has been sentenced to a total of six years and eight months for the four offences.
Detectives launched a major investigation following the stranger attack where the young woman was grabbed and dragged into a wooded area off Shakers Lane.
Police received a 999 call from a man around 10.25pm on May 11. He reported that he had been walking along the footpath that joins Shakers Lane and Symonds Road when he heard a scream and a distressed young woman had appeared, approached him and asked him to call police as she had been sexually assaulted.
Officers were at the scene within minutes and began a search for the offender, using both dog units and the police helicopter. Meanwhile officers were working with the woman to get initial information about what had happened.
She told officers she had been attacked a man who appeared to be in his late teens, who had dragged her off the path and into bushes where he forced her to commit a sexual act. She said he had then fled through the woods.
Despite an extensive search the offender was not located and enquiries got underway to trace him. A cordon was placed around the scene to allow forensic recovery to take place, a specially trained officer was allocated to work with the young woman, who was herself taken for forensic examination and for treatment for an injury sustained to her wrist in the struggle, and police began to talk to potential witnesses who had been in the area around that time.
In her first full account to officers the woman said she had been walking home with earphones in listening to music when the man had approached her from behind and had said ‘hello’. He had walked alongside her talking to her for a few moments but then stood in front of her so that she couldn’t get past. She had tried to push past him but he was too strong and they had struggled. He had then forced her to the ground and was grabbing her between her legs. She had struck and kicked him in a bid to get free but he dragged her into the bushes, squatted over her and repeatedly shouted ‘sex’ at her. He then exposed himself as she appealed for him to let her go, and forced her into sexual activity before he ran off.
Over the course of the next few days police carried out checks, viewed CCTV, made several media appeals and issued an Efit of the man they wanted to trace from the description given by the young woman.
DNA that had been recovered from her arms and hands gave a full suspect profile but when loaded into the national database it did not produce any matches. It did, however, mean police would have a means of proving the man’s involvement if he could be identified through other enquiries.
Following appeals two other women had got in touch to say they had been accosted by a man of similar description, one as she had walked her dog across the grounds behind St Marys Church around 9.15pm the same evening, and one about ten minutes later as she was walking past the law courts towards Honey Hill. A third woman also reported being similarly approached in April and in each case the women described that his behaviour had made them uncomfortable. One of the women said they thought his first name had been Andu.
During initial interviews the victim had told officers the offender had said he was from Romania and had spoken with an accent. Officers made enquiries at several locations where Romanian nationals were known to be living and working to see if they could help and, by May 18, Nedelcu had been identified as a possible suspect.
Further work was carried out and it was determined he had not been at home at the time of the offence. Detectives identified that Nedelcu had been at work on Tuesday 12 May, but had attended an address that evening and had his hair shaved off. The following morning, Wednesday 13 May, he had bought a train ticket from Bury St Edmunds to London Victoria. Police then found he had flown back to Romania from Luton airport on Wednesday 13.
CCTV viewing revealed that he had been in the area of St Mary’s churchyard earlier in the evening on May 11 and, crucially, he was located on CCTV heading towards Shakers Lane around 10.13pm and running back around 10.29pm.
After DNA tests on items seized from his home address provided a positive result, Suffolk detectives now had sufficient evidence to prove Nedelcu was responsible for the attack and began the process needed to secure a European Arrest Warrant for his extradition to return him to the UK to face charges.
Andu Nedelcu was arrested by police in his home country on Friday 22 January 2016, and he was brought back to the UK on Thursday 4 February. He was charged with the four offences and appeared at court to be charged on Friday 5 February.
Detective Chief Inspector Eamonn Bridger, who oversaw the investigation, said;
“From the start this crime was treated extremely seriously by police. Stranger attacks of this nature are rare in Suffolk and it was extremely concerning that the woman had been dragged off the path and subjected to this level of sexual assault. Officers believed there was a possibility the attacker might strike again and a team of officers was quickly assembled to carry out enquiries to identify and locate the man responsible, while additional uniform patrols were made in the area to provide public reassurance. Within days Nedelcu had been identified as a suspect and detectives worked to gather evidence and to bring him back to the UK to face justice.
“The young woman who was subjected to the attack has been incredibly courageous throughout. Her brave actions and presence of mind on the night are likely to have prevented things from escalating further and helped us ensure forensic evidence was secured.
“The case against Nedelcu was overwhelming, leading to his earlier guilty pleas to some offences in March and, eventually, to the guilty plea on Tuesday and we are pleased that she will not have to relive her ordeal in court. The sentence given reflects the serious nature of this stranger attack and we hope that this will give her some comfort as she moves forward with her life.
“We would like to thank her and all the members of the public who contacted us in the early stages of the investigation following calls for information, and the media who carried those appeals for us.”