Two men found guilty of attempted rape in attack on lone woman in Rope Walk, Ipswich
PUBLISHED: 16:42 16 August 2017 | UPDATED: 17:52 16 August 2017
Two "predatory" sex attackers who tracked a woman through Ipswich town centre before attempting to rape her in a town centre car park are facing lengthy jail terms when they are sentenced next week.
George-hari Constantinescu and Danut Gheorghe grabbed the victim from behind as she walked alone along Rope Walk after a night out, 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 injuries to her head and face.
Constantinescu and Gheorghe, both 30, of Farnham Road, Blaxhall, denied attempting to rape the woman and an alternative charge of sexual assault.
They were convicted by 10-2 majority verdicts of attempted rape after a two-week trial at Ipswich Crown Court.
Judge Rupert Overbury adjourned sentence until next week and said he would need to consider if the defendants presented a danger to the public by the commission of further serious offences in the future.
During the trial the court heard that before the woman was assaulted Constantinescu – who was living in Anglesea Road, Ipswich, at the time, and Gheorghe had been pestering another female in Bowman’s nightspot in Falcon Street, and subsequently wandered around the town taking an interest in at least one other woman.
The court was told the attack began when a man put both hands over the terrified victim’s mouth as she was walking in Rope Walk just before 3.30am on February 25. He bundled her into an isolated car park before she fell unconscious.
Prosecutor Andrew Jackson told the jury: “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 that they were not the men who attacked and tried to rape [her]. Therefore the central issue you are going to have to resolve in this trial is whether or not you are sure that in the case of each of these defendants that they were responsible for the attempt to rape her.”
The woman had been out in Ipswich with friends on February 24 and was walking alone early the following morning after leaving them.
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 his hands over her mouth in an attempt to stifle her screams. They took her into a nearby secluded car park where the terrified woman desperately struggled to get away.
The jury was told that was her last recollection of the attack as she lost consciousness, sustaining injuries to her head and face.
When she came round she was alone in the car park and naked from the waist down, although there was no DNA evidence her assailants had attempted to have sex with her.
As the woman did not see her attackers she was unable to say whether they were Constantinescu and Georghe.
The court heard the victim’s handbag and its contents had not been touched so the motive could not have been robbery.
Mr Jackson said: “Accordingly the prosecution say that this attack can only have been done to her with the intention of raping her.
“It’s the prosecution’s case that it was these two defendants who were responsible for that attempted rape.”
Neither of the defendants knew the woman involved.
The jury heard CCTV footage showed the men “targeting” the woman in the town centre no more than 15 minutes before the attack and following her out of town.
At one point they appeared to have caught up with her at a busy road junction and hid behind a garden wall before crossing the road into Rope Walk.
Almost immediately after the assault, Constantinescu and Gheorghe were said to be seen retracing their steps back towards the town centre.
Gheorghe had the hood of his coat over his head.
The jury was told earlier that morning the pair had been in Bowman’s pestering another young female.
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.
In the days after the attack, following police appeals, Constantinescu moved to a caravan near Gheorghe’s at Sutton Hoo. He also shaved his head and when police looked at his phone it had been reset to factory settings.
Gheorghe’s phone showed he had searched for airline flights and had also looked on Google Earth to see if he could find where CCTV cameras were mounted on the top of buildings.
After the jury’s verdicts Judge Overbury commended the “extremely professional and dedicated” work carried out by the investigating officer Det Sgt Holly Evans.
“She has worked diligently and tirelessly to enable the evidence to be presented in a clear and concise format for the court.
“I am quite satisfied that without her skill and hard work this case would have taken up a great deal of court time and would have been less comprehensible to the jury.
“Her standard of work has been of the highest calibre throughout the investigation and trial. She is a credit to the Suffolk Constabulary and I formally commend her for her endeavours,” said the judge.