Pair jailed for 24 years for attempted rape of woman in secluded Ipswich car park
PUBLISHED: 17:22 24 August 2017 | UPDATED: 17:32 24 August 2017
Two "predatory" sex attackers who tracked a woman through Ipswich town centre before attempting to rape her in a car park have been given jail sentences totalling 24 years.
George-Hari Constantinescu and Danut Gheorghe grabbed the victim from behind as she walked alone along Rope Walk and bundled her into a car park.
The woman lost consciousness during the attack and when she came round she was naked from the waist down and had head and face injuries, Ipswich Crown Court heard.
Constantinescu and Gheorghe, both 30, of Farnham Road, Blaxhall, denied attempted rape and an alternative charge of sexual assault.
They were convicted by 10-2 majority verdict of attempted rape after a two-week trial, which ended last week.
Jailing the men each for 12 yearsm Judge Rupert Overbury said they had “hunted” the victim down before attacking her.
The court heard before the woman was assaulted, Constantinescu – who was living in Anglesea Road, Ipswich, at the time – and Gheorghe had been pestering another female in Bowmans in Falcon Street.
They had also loitered outside a kebab shop in Dog’s Head Street when another woman was inside, and had been hanging around outside Hawk Express taxi office in Old Foundry Road.
The attack began when a man put both hands over the victim’s mouth as she walked in Rope Walk just before 3.30am on February 25. He bundled her into a car park before she fell unconscious.
Prosecutor Andrew Jackson said: “It is the prosecution’s case that in those early hours these defendants were predatory rapists. They followed [the woman] into that road, and there attacked and intended to rape her.
“They say they were not the men who attacked and tried to rape [her]. Therefore the central issue to resolve is whether or not you are sure in the case of each defendant they were responsible for the attempt to rape her.”
The woman had been out in Ipswich with friends on February 24 and after leaving them was walking alone early the next day.
Unbeknown to her she was followed as she walked through Tacket Street, Orwell Place, and Eagle Street. When she was in Rope Walk, the woman suddenly became aware of two men running behind her.
As soon as she realised they were there, one of the men put both hands over her mouth to stifle her screams. They took her into a nearby secluded car park where the terrified woman desperately struggled to get away.
The jury heard that was her last memory as she lost consciousness.
When she came round she was naked from the waist down, although there was no DNA evidence her assailants had attempted to have sex with her.
The woman did not see her attackers, and her handbag and its contents were untouched – so the motive could not have been robbery, the court heard.
Mr Jackson said: “Accordingly the prosecution say this attack can only have been done with the intention of raping her.”
Neither of the defendants knew the woman involved.
CCTV footage showed the men “targeting” the woman in the town centre no more than 15 minutes before the attack.
Following her, at one point they appeared to have caught up with her and hid behind a garden wall before crossing into Rope Walk.
Almost immediately after the assault, Constantinescu and Gheorghe were said to be seen retracing their steps towards the town centre. Gheorghe had the hood of his coat over his head.
In the days after the attack, after police appeals, Constantinescu moved to a caravan near Gheorghe’s at Sutton Hoo. He shaved his head and reset his phone to factory settings, while Gheorghe’s phone showed flight searches and he had also looked on Google Earth to see if he could find where CCTV cameras were.
Sentencing the men Judge Rupert Overbury described what they had done as “despicable” and “callous”.
“What you did was a despicable attempt to rape a woman having rendered her unconscious,” he said. “That you acted in a completely callous way is further demonstrated by the fact you left her half naked, helpless and unconscious in a deserted and dark car park.
“Fortunately, serious sexual attacks such as this are rare but it is clear from the public response to this case that what happened in February sent shockwaves through the community.
“Your behaviour as described by witnesses and revealed in the CCTV footage was predatory; you specifically targeted the victim from the moment you realised she was on her own and heading away from the town centre.”
The judge considered the defendants wanted to have sexual activity with a woman that night, whether or not she consented. He said earlier in the evening they had approached young women who had obviously been drinking and plied them with more alcohol and had attempted to speak to and touch others to gain their attention.
“Fortunately for them, either good sense, intuition, or the intervention of third parties prevented your further contact with them,” said the judge.
He said that, no doubt frustrated by their failure to achieve their goal, they spent 50 minutes “hunting” the centre of Ipswich for a woman and that tragically the victim’s path home had crossed with the defendants.
Victim impact statement
In a statement read to the court, the victim said she had been left feeling constantly on edge and had nightmares about being attacked.
“I cannot believe I was randomly attacked without provocation in my own home town, the place which I consider to be my safe haven,” she said. “I feel I should be able to walk down the street on my own without fear or concern of something like this happening to me.
“I keep thinking that if it had not been me that night then it would have been someone else who was attacked.
“These men are strangers to me; I gave them no reason to attack me. They violated me and removed my clothes whilst I was helpless and unconscious. I am unable to come to terms with the loss of those minutes in my life - minutes which I will never get back.”