A man who claimed that sister-in-law had "devil-like eyes" in his defence for her murder has been jailed for atleast 28 years. 

Nicolae Virtosu, 49, of Princes Road in Ilford, appeared at the Old Bailey on Monday (October 9) where he was sentenced for killing Svetlana Mihalachi in April 2021. 

Virtosu lived in the same house in Ilford with Mihalachi, her husband and her 12-year-old son. The 53-year-old victim and Virtosu were said to not have an easy relationship and often argued about chores around the house, noise and money.

Mihalachi had “made it clear” that she wanted Virtosu to move out but he refused. Their bond deteriorated in the coming months with Virtosu starting to threaten Mihalachi.

A spokesperson for Met Police said Mihalachi had began to fear for her life. Virtosu, who was living in the UK illegally was eventually reported by her to the Home Office in desperation.

On March 3 in 2021, she called the police to have Virtosu removed from the house. But, the spokesperson said, she was afraid of the implications of making a statement.

Officers reported Virtuso to immigration services. Following this, at around 2.08pm on April 9, police were called by London Ambulance Service to reports of Mihalachi’s assault in her home in Ilford.

Mihalachi was found with serious head injuries caused by a hatchet that was recovered at the scene. Virtosu’s fingerprints were also found on its handle.

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Officers conducted CCTV enquiries that showed Virtosu leaving the house at 12.02pm and walking quickly away along Princes Road. He had called up his brother to inform him about Mihalachi’s death, and when he did not pick up, left him a text.

Mihalachi’s husband returned home to find her lying on the sofa with serious head and facial injuries. She was given first aid by officers and paramedics who attended the scene and was taken to Royal London Hospital.

She underwent emergency surgery and was placed in an induced coma on life support at the hospital. Despite these efforts, her condition worsened, and she was pronounced dead at around 00.06am on May 2021.

A postmortem test found the cause of death as multi-organ failure resulting from head injuries and loss of blood. Virtuso was later arrested on suspicion of Mihalachi’s murder when he returned to the Ilford home.

During the trial, Virtuso had claimed he suffered a psychotic disorder and was “hearing voices”. Mihalachi, he said in his defence, had appeared to him as having “devil-like shining red eyes” but his excuse failed to convince the jury.

On July 21, he was convicted of Mihalachi’s murder and making a threat to kill. While he has been jailed for atleast 28 years for killing her, he was found not guilty of threatening to kill her.

Detective Constable Rosamund Ellis, from the Met's Specialist Crime Command, said Mihalachi had lived “with the threat of violence” from Virtosu for months before her death.

Those threats, she said, eventually led to a ferocious physical attack that ended her life.

She added: “Virtosu tried hard to give the impression that he wasn’t responsible for his actions due to a mental health disorder, but his actions were not the result of delusions.

“They were the actions of an angry violent man who launched a murderous attack on Svetlana as he had threatened to do on so many occasions.

“She was a wife and a mother, and the depth of loss felt by her loved ones is immeasurable. My thoughts are with them today.”