Tuesday 27 February 2024
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Man who viciously beat pensioner to death in burglary found guilty of murder

A burglar who tied up and brutally assaulted a pensioner in Langwith Junction has been found guilty of her murder.

Vasile Culea admitted he had broken into Kenneth and Freda Walker’s Station Road home on Friday 14 January 2022.

He had heard the couple had a significant amount of money in the home they had shared for more than 60 years.

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But when the couple either could not, or would not, give the 34-year-old the money, he brutally assaulted them. The pair were unable to fight back after Culea had bound their hands and feet and even placed bags over Freda’s head.

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He was seen on CCTV to calmly walk away from the couple’s house where he had left Freda fatally wounded – and Kenneth fighting for his life.

The couple were found the following morning by a concerned neighbour. Freda was dead and Kenneth was in a critical condition.

Temporary Detective Inspector Carolyne Van Schaick, who helped lead the investigation, said: “At that point we had no idea who was responsible.

“A stranger murder of this type is very unusual and quickly an incident room was set up and officers from across the region were drafted in to begin the hunt.”

There followed five days of intensive investigation with the normally quiet area in northeast Derbyshire flooded with officers conducting a meticulous CCTV trawl of the area – something that was to prove vital in bringing Culea to justice.

After numerous appeals to the public and an incredible response from the local community of Langwith the breakthrough came on Wednesday 19 January.

Swabs taken from a cap found inside the Walker’s home returned a positive DNA hit for one Vasile Culea.

TDI Van Schaick said: “When the DNA hit came back it was a huge moment.

“We finally had a name and a face that would allow us to really focus in our investigations.”

cap found in house

Officers carried out a warrant at a house in Grove Road, Church Warsop, in the early hours of the following day and Culea was arrested.

With his grey Audi A4 seized and his face now known, detectives then undertook another extensive CCTV trawl to trace his movements six days earlier.

Hundreds of hours of CCTV were viewed as the team tracked him from his home in Church Warsop into a Shirebrook bookmakers – and then as he drove around Langwith Junction, crucially around the Station Road area.

They then found that he had left his car and walked around the area, scoping out the Walker’s house between 1pm and 5.25pm.

He was captured on CCTV just yards away from 1 Station Road where the couple lived at 5.29pm.

TDI Van Schaick said: “Between 5.30pm and 8.48pm there were no sightings of Culea on CCTV – we now know that the reason for that was because he was inside the Walker’s home.

“The next time he is caught on camera Culea is dressed in a high-visibility jacket, seemingly in an effort to change his appearance, and he calmly walks away from the scene of horror he left behind.”

The case built by the detectives in the Major Crime Unit meant that Culea had no other choice to admit his presence in the house – but he denied he intended to kill the couple.

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The jury of 11 men and one woman sitting at Derby Crown Court did not believe him, finding him guilty of Freda’s murder.

On the charge of the attempted murder of Kenneth the jury found him not guilty – but did find him guilty of assault occasioning grievous bodily harm with intent.

Culea will now be sentenced on Friday 28 October.

TDI Van Schaick said, said: “Freda and Kenneth Walker had been members of the Shirebrook community throughout their lives, contributing to life in the area both through their work, their involvement in the local council and through their caring and social natures in general.

“All their friends and family have told of how they have both led hardworking lives and always put others first.

“There is no doubt that having worked so hard over the years that Freda and Kenneth deserved a long, happy retirement and peace in their later years.

“This was taken away from them back in January when Vasile Culea, believing the couple had money in the address, went in with the intention to steal from them.

“When he encountered Freda and Kenneth, he assaulted them, killing Freda and leaving Kenneth for dead. The methods he used were truly shocking.

“Whilst Kenneth may have survived the attack, he had lost his wife and lived out his remaining days requiring constant care before he sadly passed away shortly before this case was due to be heard.

“I would like to thank the family of both Ken and Freda who have shown courage throughout this terrible time, as well as the community of Shirebrook who have supported each other, and this investigation, throughout.

“Whist this verdict can never reverse Culea’s actions on that night I do hope it provides some consolation to those affected by this horrific crime that justice has been done.”


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