A 23-year-old man is now behind bars for raping a pensioner and stealing £200 from her.
Gabriel Lupu, a car valeter of West Buildings, Worthing, appeared at Hove Crown Court today after pleading guilty to rape and robbery and was sentenced to 10 years and four years in prison, to run concurrently.
The court has ordered that he will be deported back to Romania on his release from prison, will remain on licence for another five years after he is released and will be on the sex offenders register for life.
The victim, a pensioner from Hove, travelled to Worthing on Sunday, May 8 this year, police said.
They said she became confused and disorientated during the evening and was unable to work out how to get home.
She withdrew £200 from her bank account and made her way into the Montague Centre where she stood outside MacDonald’s, according to police.
At around 1am, Lupu approached the victim and CCTV captured him walking along South Street carrying her handbag and her following.
The next camera, outside TK Maxx, shows a struggle between them as she tried to get back her bag, before he was seen leading her away.
Police said they ended up in the nearby Barclays Bank car park where he raped her and stole the £200.
Lupu left her in the car park and returned to dump her bag after taking the cash, they added.
Lupu took advantage of this very vulnerable woman, his behaviour was despicableDetective Chief Inspector Tanya Jones
The victim was able to walk to the police station where she reported what had happened, police said.
Although she was very confused, officers were able to establish what they believed had happened, and offer her the right support while they began their investigation.
The CCTV from the town centre was trawled through and they soon had their suspect. The footage, pictured, showed the suspect walking past the Co-Op in Rowlands Road and through the pedestrian area of Montague Street.
CCTV images released of the suspect was shared across social media when it was released by officers investigating the crime back at the beginning of June.
It was retweeted 555 times and reached 55,755 people, police said.
One of those people who viewed it thought she recognised the man and although she couldn’t remember much about him, she was able to give a small amount of detail.
Police said the images were also spotted on social media by the suspect’s parents who recognised their son and they told him to return to Worthing from Romania where he had been visiting family.
A woman rang with some potential names and where she believed they might work. Officers visited the car wash where Lupu had connections and one of the staff members was able to contact him and he agreed to meet officers. Detectives showed him and members of staff the CCTV image and they all agreed it was him, police said.
Detectives arrested him just over two weeks after releasing the image.
Police said Lupu initially denied he had any involvement in the rape or robbery of her money, however his DNA was found on her body and on the receipt she got when she withdrew the money, linking him directly.
Detective Chief Inspector Tanya Jones from Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team led the investigation. She said: “Lupu took advantage of this very vulnerable woman, his behaviour was despicable. Thankfully he has now pleaded guilty, sparing her of the trauma of the trial, and he will now spend a long time in prison and will be deported.
“I would like to thank the lady who phoned with the smallest amount of information but it was vitally important to start working out who Lupu was.
“I would also like to thank every person who shared and retweeted the CCTV image, without your help we would not have been able to identify him as quickly.”
Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.
Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be amongst the first to know what’s going on.
1) Make our website your homepage
2) Like our Facebook page
3) Follow us on Twitter
4) Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.
And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!
Always the first with your local news.
Be part of it.