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Serial rapist jailed for life for murdering Hainault woman 11 years ago

PUBLISHED: 15:23 20 August 2020 | UPDATED: 15:23 20 August 2020

The man who murdered Michelle Samaraweera, whose body was found in a playground in 2009, has been jailed for life. Picture: Met Police

The man who murdered Michelle Samaraweera, whose body was found in a playground in 2009, has been jailed for life. Picture: Met Police

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A serial rapist who preyed on lone women in the dark and murdered Michelle Samaraweera from Hainault more than a decade ago has been sentenced to life in prison.

Aman Vyas was found guilty of the rape and murder of Michelle Samaraweera and several other rapes. Picture: Met PoliceAman Vyas was found guilty of the rape and murder of Michelle Samaraweera and several other rapes. Picture: Met Police

Michelle’s sister, Ann has spoken out saying Aman Vyas’ sentence “will never be enough.”

She said the three other women he raped besides her sister are the ones who are truly serving life sentences, haunted by the acts of a “monster”.

The judge recommended Vyas, 36, serve 37 years for the murder of Michelle, who lived in Kielder Close.

With time served already served in custody, both in England and in India, Vyas will serve 34 years and 312 days.

Vyas' former employer recognised him from his poster which was distributed in November 2010. Picture: Metropolitan PoliceVyas' former employer recognised him from his poster which was distributed in November 2010. Picture: Metropolitan Police

He was also sentenced at Croydon Crown Court on Thursday, August 20 for five counts of rape, causing grievous bodily harm with intent, ranging from 14 to 18-and-a-half years for each count.

He will serve these sentences concurrently with the murder sentence.

Vyas had been found guilty on Thursday, July 30 after a trial at the Old Bailey.

After he was extradited from India to face trial, he was convicted of the rape and murder of Michelle and the rape of three other women in Walthamstow between March and May 2009.

CCTV shows Michelle Samaraweera entering the shop in Markhouse Road. Picture: Met PoliceCCTV shows Michelle Samaraweera entering the shop in Markhouse Road. Picture: Met Police

Ann said: “Aman Vyas has had over 11 years to come clean and admit to raping and murdering my sister, and even longer to admit to all the other heinous crimes committed against all the other innocent victims.

“He has also had all this time to reflect on his own life and address the issues that have turned him into the monster that he is but he didn’t.

“Instead he has lied and fabricated stories for his own benefit. He will never understand what he put my mother, sisters, children, loved ones, friends and myself through.

“Michelle was always so thoughtful when it came to buying gifts for anyone, my daughter still has the beautiful blanket she gave her and she has slept with it every day up until now. One week before my daughter’s first birthday, I stayed up all night making colourful paper chains for her upcoming birthday party, only to wake up the next day to find out that my baby sister had been found dead in a children’s playground. Vyas has no idea what impact this has had on mine and my children’s lives.”

CCTV footage showing Vyas entering the shop in Markhouse Road. Picture: Met PoliceCCTV footage showing Vyas entering the shop in Markhouse Road. Picture: Met Police

The incidents first happened when Vyas was 24, living in Walthamstow and working at a dry cleaner’s. The court heard he would go out in the early hours of the morning looking for lone women to target; he covered a relatively small area of Walthamstow, centred around Markhouse Road.

The first incident happened in the early hours of Tuesday, March 24, 2009. The victim, a woman who was then 59, had gone out to top up her meter key. As she walked back home she was followed by Vyas. He followed her into the communal area of her block of flats where she spotted him on the stairs. There was a brief conversation and as the woman returned to her flat Vyas pushed his way in.

The woman asked him to leave, at which point Vyas punched her repeatedly in the face. He then raped her, apologised for his actions and left.

The woman was taken to hospital where doctors noted bruising and swelling to her face and bleeding in the white of one of her eyes.

Aman Vyas in the shop in Markhouse Road, Walthamstow. Picture: Met PoliceAman Vyas in the shop in Markhouse Road, Walthamstow. Picture: Met Police

As a result of forensic examination, partial DNA was recovered. A partial profile means that not all DNA components were present to complete a full DNA profile.

However, police could confirm that the person who carried out the offences was not on the DNA database.

The second attack happened on Wednesday, April 22. A 46-year-old woman, out for a walk, was approached by Vyas who said he was looking to buy drugs. She agreed to take him to somewhere to buy them. When they arrived, he pulled out a knife and forced her down an alley, telling her she had better do as he said.

When she screamed, he punched her in the face, raped her and then fled the scene. The woman made her way to a public phone and called police. A forensic examination of the scene again found only a partial DNA sample. However, in 2019 a full forensic review did locate a full DNA sample that could provide a definitive link.

This e-fit of the suspect was circulated but it did not lead to anyone being identified. Picture: Met PoliceThis e-fit of the suspect was circulated but it did not lead to anyone being identified. Picture: Met Police

The third attack was on Wednesday, April 29. The victim, a 32-year-old woman, had visited a local supermarket and as she walked home, passed near to St Saviour’s Church; this was the last thing she could remember before she woke up in hospital.

In the early hours, a member of the public heard screaming and groaning coming from the graveyard. Police were called and found the victim. She had a deep cut to her head, her clothing was awry and she was hypothermic.

She was immediately taken to hospital where her head wound was stitched and she was found to have a fractured jaw and nose. In all, the woman was in hospital for more than a month while her injuries were treated.

It was not until June that she was able to speak formally to police about the incident. A DNA sample was obtained from a blanket paramedics had used to cover the woman and detectives were able to link this attack to the others.

The last attack culminated in the murder of Michelle, a 35-year-old widow who had a boyfriend in Walthamstow.

On Saturday, May 30 CCTV cameras recorded her buying snacks at a shop in Markhouse Road. A man, later identified as Vyas, entered the shop. Michelle left the shop and began walking along Queens Road, where there is a small park with a playground.

At about 1.30am members of the public heard screams coming from the park, however police were not called. At about 5.15am, a dog walker found her partially clothed body. Police and the London Ambulance Service were called and she was pronounced dead at the scene.

A post-mortem examination revealed that she had been strangled and subjected to a sexual assault; once again a DNA sample was retrieved.

Police investigations had been immediately launched into the first two offences, however the samples did not match anyone on the database. The subsequent DNA recovered at murder was also linked to the first two rapes and, later still, to the third attack.

Homicide detectives took over the investigation and, on the day of the murder, two men were arrested, followed by two more the next day. However all were subsequently eliminated from the inquiry.

On June 6, 2009, officers conducted house-to-house enquiries in the local area.

Men who matched the description of the suspect were asked to provide a DNA sample to eliminate them from the inquiry. By late August 2009, 1,815 addresses had been visited and 750 DNA swabs had been taken. By early December, the number of DNA swabs had risen to more than 1,100.

Despite further arrests, extensive enquiries, an e-fit of the suspect being circulated and repeated media appeals, no suspect was identified.

Between November 8 and 13, 2010, 60,525 posters were despatched by investigating officers via Royal Mail to addresses in the Walthamstow area. These posters contained an image of the suspect from the shop CCTV and it was this that resulted in a breakthrough.

A man recognised the suspect as a former employee of his. He also recognised the distinctive jacket worn by the suspect as being one worn by the former employee.

The man contacted police, identified the suspect as Vyas and explained that he left the country in July 2009, adding that a family member still worked for him. Vyas’s former boss provided police with a water bottle that the family member had drunk from. This was compared against the DNA sample of the suspect and showed a familial link between the water bottle sample and the as yet unidentified suspect’s DNA sample. The former employee was Aman Vyas.

It was established that on July 2, 2009, a month after Ms Samaraweera’s murder and just a few days after a Crimewatch appeal about the case, Vyas purchased a one-way ticket to India, leaving the same day.

A manhunt commenced to find Vyas and extradite him back to the UK. In 2011, enquiries revealed at one stage that Vyas was in New Zealand, he then made his way to Singapore and the trail went cold.

Then on July 4, 2011 police were informed by Indian authorities that they had arrested Vyas, an Indian national, at New Delhi Airport as he tried to take an outbound flight.

Extradition proceedings commenced at that time but it was not until October 4, 2019 that Met officers escorted the defendant from Indira Gandhi Airport in New Delhi to London Heathrow that he was arrested. Vyas was charged with the abovementioned offences that same day and kept in custody to appear at court.

It was now possible to get a full DNA sample from Vyas. The DNA findings were 1 billion times more likely to have come from Vyas, rather than from some other person.

The case officer, Det Sgt Shaleena Sheikh, said: “We are pleased with today’s sentence which reflects the gravity of Vyas’s crimes. At last the victims and their families have seen the man responsible for such terrible crimes brought to justice. This is a long sentence that recognises the cruelty and depravity of Vyas’s actions.

“Vyas carried out horrific and violent attacks on three women which, tragically, culminated in the murder of Michelle Samaraweera. He then did all he could to evade responsibility for his crimes and fled to India. He added further distress to those he hurt by subjecting them to a trial. I would like to commend the dignity and bravery shown by his victims and their families throughout this process, which has lasted more than 10 years.

“Despite having DNA from the scenes of the crimes, Vyas was not on the database and this prompted a lengthy and complex investigation, which saw more than 1,100 DNA swabs taken and 1,815 addresses visited. We also issued more than 60,500 posters displaying an image of the suspect. The scale of this investigation has been remarkable and the case has lasted a decade, taking our enquiries to many different countries and resulting in a lengthy extradition process.

“The Met has worked tirelessly to bring this case to court. We would like to thank the public for assisting us with our enquiries and all those who voluntarily gave DNA samples. This enabled us to quickly eliminate suspects, concentrate on other lines of enquiry and ultimately identify Vyas sooner. We would also like to commend the man who recognised the suspect as a former employee and contacted police. The information he provided was imperative to the investigation and helped build the case against Vyas. It goes to show that any information, no matter how insignificant it may seem, could be vital.

“Vyas preyed on women and his crimes were of a brutal nature. We hope today brings at least some peace to the victims and their families. The Met will always support victims of sexual assault or violent crime and this case show our determination in bringing those responsible to justice.“

Vyas was found not guilty of one count of possession of a bladed weapon.

Michelle’s sister added: “I hope one day Vyas finds it in his heart to confess and truly be sorry for the pain inflicted on the innocent women he violated. They are the ones that are serving life sentences. Vyas potentially spending the rest of his life in prison is not a punishment but a privilege, it will never be enough.”


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