Romanian lodger who knifed landlord in Ilford cleared of murder

Florin Onea, 49, of Hickling Road, Ilford, who was found with a stab wound at his home in October la

Florin Onea, 49, of Hickling Road, Ilford, who was found with a stab wound at his home in October last year and died nine days later. Picture: Metropolitan Police - Credit: Archant

A Romanian lodger who knifed his landlord through the heart after a vodka binge walked free from court after a jury cleared him of murder.

Marcel Crihan, 34, said he was acting in self-defence when he stabbed 49-year-old Florin Onea at the home they shared in Hickling Road, Ilford.

Mr Crihan worked for his countryman’s removals business and had been drinking with his boss and other housemates in the back garden after a hard day at work.

He said they took off their tops for a bare-chested fist fight after an argument about money broke out.

Mr Crihan said he smashed a bottle of beer over Mr Onea’s head, then armed himself with a kitchen knife as a last resort to protect himself from the bigger man.

A jury of the six men and six women deliberated for almost 15 hours before clearing Mr Crihan of murder and a lesser alternative of manslaughter.

Peter Finnigan QC, prosecuting, said the pair had been friends prior to the killing.

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He said: “Mr Onea was a Romanian and he had worked in the UK since his arrival in about 2010.

“He ran a small removal or delivery business but at some stage he needed some more help with his business and he gave a job to the defendant who is also a Romanian national.”

Crihan and his partner, Andrea Ciosu, moved into the annexe at the back of Mr Onea’s garden.

Both men had spent the day “drinking heavily” in the lead up to the fatal row on Saturday, October 17, last year.

“Following an evening meal they were in the back garden of the house drinking when an argument erupted and the argument soon turned to violence,” said Mr Finnigan.

Officers who entered the house saw Mr Onea with blood pouring from his chest with another wound to his forehead before he collapsed in the kitchen.

“The stab wound to his chest penetrated his heart,” the prosecutor added.

“As a result of his injuries he suffered irreversible and unsurvivable brain damage and organ failure from which he died not long afterwards on 26 October.”

Police initially charged Mr Crihan with attempted murder while the Mr Onea was still alive.

He was then charged with murdering Mr Onea after he succumbed to his injuries at the Royal London Hospital nine days later.

He later told police he had been on medication to combat epileptic fits following a brain operation after an attack in Romania and had not had a drink for a year until that evening.

Mr Crihan described how he fell prey to a gang of men in a horse-drawn carriage and ambushed with a pitch fork leaving him hospitalised for six months.

On the night of the killing he said he was “feeling tipsy” when Mr Onea suddenly lunged at him.

“He came towards me,” said Mr Crihan.

“I stood up already and he started to tell me to leave the house – everybody to get out of his house – probably because of the discussion I had with him before, about money probably.”

“I answered him something he did not like but I do not know precisely the reason.”

He said he was slapped a number of times around the face and then shoved to the floor before he and his partner rushed to pack their bags.

But Mr Onea pursued him to the kitchen where, he said, he was forced to defend himself with a kitchen knife.

Mr Crihan denied murder and manslaughter and was acquitted on both counts by the jury.

He was discharged and walked free from court.