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Man who murdered sister-in-law after earlier killing wife could have been deported before she died

A MAN who was previously convicted of strangling his wife to death went on to murder his frightened sister-in-law, but could have been deported more than a month before he killed her, a court heard.

Police involved in the case were investigated for alleged misconduct, due to contact they had with the desperate victim, and received advice over their actions in the run up to the tragedy.

Moldavian national Nicolae Virtosu, 48, (above) was in the country illegally from around 2018 when he murdered Svetlana Mihalachi and police had alerted the immigration service nearly five weeks earlier amid fears he may harm her.

The Old Bailey heard he had previously been convicted of killing his wife by strangulation.

Virtosu, of Princes Road, Ilford, east London, appeared at the court on Friday, July 21, where, following trial, he was convicted of Svetlana's murder.

The court heard how he was the victim’s brother-in-law and lived with Svetlana, her husband and her 12-year-old son.

A Met Police spokesman said: "The relationship between 53-year-old Svetlana and Virtosu was not an easy one, they often argued about chores around the house, noise and money.

"Eventually Svetlana made it clear that she wanted Virtosu to move out, but he refused.

"Over time the relationship deteriorated further, with Virtosu continuing to threaten Svetlana – she began to fear for her life.

"In desperation she reported Virtosu, who was in the UK illegally, to the Home Office.

"On March 3 2021, Svetlana called police asking for Virtosu to be removed from the house, however she was scared of Virtosu and afraid of the implications of making a statement. Police told her that they would report Virtosu to immigration services."

At 2:08pm on Friday, April 9, police were called by the London Ambulance Service following reports that a woman had been assaulted inside a residential address in Princes Road.

Officers attended and found Svetlana with serious head injuries caused by blows to the head with a hatchet. The hatchet was found at the scene. Virtosu’s fingerprints were found on the handle.

CCTV enquiries in the area showed that Virtosu had left the house at 12:02pm when he was seen walking quickly away along Princes Road. As he walked away from the address he made a call to Svetlana's husband, but when the call wasn’t picked up Virtosu sent a text message telling him that his wife was dead.

When Svetlana’s husband returned home he found her lying on the sofa with serious head and facial injuries. Police officers arrived and administered first aid. They were soon joined by paramedics who conducted emergency procedures at the scene before taking her to the Royal London Hospital where she underwent surgery and was placed in an induced coma on life support.

While emergency services were working to save Svetlana, the defendant returned to the address and was arrested on suspicion of murder.

Despite all those efforts, her condition deteriorated and at just after midnight on 12 May 2021 Svetlana sadly died.

A post-mortem examination found the cause of death to have been multi organ failure resulting from head injuries and loss of blood.

Throughout the trial Virtosu claimed to have been ‘hearing voices’ and suffering a psychotic disorder. He claimed that Svetlana had appeared to him as having devil-like shining red eyes to support a defence of diminished responsibility, but he did not convince the jury.

DC Rosamund Ellis investigating said: “Svetlana Mihalachi had been forced to live with a background of threats of violence that ultimately ended in a ferocious and fatal attack.

“Virtosu tried hard to give the impression that he wasn’t responsible for his actions due to a mental health disorder, but his actions were not the result of delusions, they were the actions of an angry violent man who launched a murderous attack on Svetlana (below) as he had threatened to do on so many occasions.

“She was a wife and a mother and the depth of loss felt by her loved ones is immeasurable. My thoughts are with them today.”

The Home Office was asked for comment about what, if any action, the Immigration Service took to deport him.

A spokesperson refused to comment on the specific case.

He said: "Foreign National Offenders who exploit our system and commit crimes here in the UK will face the full force of the law, including deportation at the earliest opportunity for those eligible.

"Any foreign national who is convicted of a crime and given a prison sentence is considered for deportation at the earliest opportunity."

Due to previous contact between the victim and police the case was looked at by the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC).

A Met Police spokesman said: "Due to previous contact with Svetlana Mihalachi the incident was referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

"Two police constables, two sergeants and one inspector were served with regulation 17 notices for misconduct.

"The IOPC investigation concluded that no misconduct or gross misconduct was identified. A number of performance issues were identified.

"One PC received Reflective Practice; the other PC and one sergeant received Unsatisfactory Police Performance."

Virosu was also convicted of making a threat to kill, and found not guilty of making another threat to kill.

Sentencing is set for Monday, October 9.


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