Died 29th October 2013
Mariana Popa (24) was stabbed to death in Ilford in east London on 29th October 2013. She was found in a post-mortem to have died of shock, haemorrhage and stab wounds. She was a mother of one child and was 6 weeks pregnant when she died.
In June 2014 Farooq Shah (21) of Station Road, Forest Gate, east London, was found guilty of her murder. He has been jailed for life and must serve 29 years before being considered for parole.
Ms Popa was a Romanian and had been working as a prostitute. She had been in Britain for just three weeks and was trying to earn the money to support her family.
Shah plunged a knife into Ms Popa’s chest while riding his bicycle along a stretch of road often frequented by prostitutes and their clients.
She staggered into Chicken & Pizza 4U in Ilford Lane and collapsed in a pool of blood as her killer rode away on his bike. She died at 2am at the Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel.
CCTV images shown in court captured the moment Ms Popa was confronted by Shah, a muslim, reportedly near his local mosque. CCTV showed Shah waiting on the forecourt of a BP garage close to where prostitutes were working on Ilford Lane late on 28th October.
Ms Popa can be seen to walk towards him and speak to him before he stabbed her twice in the chest. Prosecutors believe Shah was warning Ms Popa to leave the area – and she died because she refused.
Shah claimed he was the victim of mistaken identity, but his very distinctive appearance matched that of the killer.
Judge Christopher Kinch QC said: “It was an utterly terrible attack which inevitably led to her death. It was carried out with callous indifference on a defenceless woman. Mariana Popa did not stand a chance.”
During the trial Bobbie Cheema QC, prosecuting, asked Shah: “What was that conversation with Miss Popa about? Did you ask her to go with you? Did you offer her money? Did she say no because you had a bike and didn’t even have a car? Or were you on this night patrolling the area for prostitutes? Did you want to challenge Miss Popa and ask her to get out of that area, to get away from the mosques?”
Shah said he was elsewhere at the time and that having women sell their bodies near his mosque or home “means nothing”. He insisted he would never need to hand over money for sex, saying “I would never, ever do that, I’d never pay money for sex. Look at me – I’m not an ugly man”.
An hour before Shah stabbed Ms Popa, he had robbed Ikran Chohan, a blind man, of £400 and his mobile phone at knifepoint. A bicycle matching the description of Ms Popa’s killer and Mr Chohan’s assailant was found outside Shah’s flat on St Francis Way.
Shah claimed he was at home watching an episode of Family Guy at the time of the killing after returning from a party in Plaistow drunk and high from smoking cannabis. He said a man approached him on the street while on his way home and sold him the phone, which was found on him.
Shah was sentenced to six years in jail for the robbery, to run concurrently.
Note: This report was drawn from reports in the Daily Mail, BBC, London 24 and Ilford Recorder.