Man found guilty of murdering ex wife who died in fire
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A man has been found guilty of the murder of his ex-wife who died in a fire in Stoke-on-Trent.
Georgian Constantin, 42, of Stoke-on-Trent, was found guilty of the murder of 40-year-old Valentina Cozma by a jury today (Thursday 12 October) following a trial at Stafford Crown Court.
He was also found guilty of making threats to kill a man from Stoke-on-Trent.
At approximately 3pm on 9 February 2023, neighbours and passers-by reported hearing screams from a house on Campbell Road, Stoke, and called emergency services. Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service arrived quickly but the kitchen, located at the rear of the house, was engulfed in flames and the fire was spreading. When the fire was finally brought under control, fire crews discovered Valentina’s body lying below the back window in the middle room. She was pronounced dead at the scene at 3.30pm. No-one else was in the property at the time of the fire.
A post mortem established that she died due to the effects of fire.
Fire investigation experts discovered that the fire started in the kitchen which was heavily fire damaged compared to other areas of the house. Petrol was used to start this fire. Significantly, a plastic bottle was found in the back yard containing petrol. Swabs taken from the cap on the bottle were examined and were found to contain a major DNA profile that matched the defendant.
Valentina had been in a relationship with Georgian for a number of years. They separated the month before Valentina’s death and he moved out of the family home on Campbell Road.
The court heard that, on 7 February 2023, two days before Valentina’s death, Constantin was seen on CCTV purchasing a green plastic jerry can, filling it up with petrol and paying for it at Sainsbury’s petrol station on nearby London Road. Constantin did not own a car.
On 8 February 2023, CCTV footage showed a figure wearing a padded coat with the hood up. It also showed the figure crouching below the low wall in front of Valentina’s house for around 45 seconds before standing up and walking away. It was put to the jury that one common sense conclusion was that Constantin was putting the petrol there in anticipation of his attack the following day.
On 9 February 2023, Constantin went into two shops in Hanley to try to sell his laptop saying he ‘needed money’. The shops declined to buy it and this same laptop was found at the scene near to Valentina’s body.
After he visited the shops, CCTV showed Constantin walking along Campbell Road and reaching over the wall at Valentina’s house, retrieving something and putting it into his rucksack and walking away just before 2.20 pm.
The court heard that Constantin had arranged to meet Valentina at her house saying he was going to give her some money. Further CCTV footage shows Constantin outside Valentina’s house again at 2.32pm, just minutes before the fire.
Within minutes of the fire, and using Valentina’s phone, Constantin sent her boyfriend a voice message saying he ‘has sorted her out and was coming for him’.
He was captured on CCTV at 2.48pm moving away from Campbell Road towards Hanley.
The defendant then fled to London, where he was arrested five days later by our officers.
Detective Inspector Adrian Webb, of our Major Investigations Department, said: “Valentina worked tirelessly to attempt to make a better life for her son. I can’t imagine how her murder, when he was just 16, has impacted on him.
“Georgian Constantin’s cruel, self-pitying and cowardly act has left a son without a mother and a father jailed for murder. Valentina sought a happier life and Constantin made sure that was never going to happen.
“Constantin murdered his ex-wife by setting her on fire. He made no attempt to assist her or seek help. Instead, he threatened to kill Valentina’s new partner before running off to London. He thought he could use false details, dispose of phones and hide on the streets of London after murdering his ex-wife. He underestimated our determination to seek justice for Valentina.
“Throughout the trial, Constantin has sought to taint and derogate Valentina, a woman he said he loved. He made unsubstantiated claims that she was unfaithful, that she had many boyfriends and that her mind had been twisted. He tried to convince the jury that Valentina was to blame for her own death.
“Valentina never had a voice in this trial but her family and friends described a her as a loving, hard-working mother who was ‘looking forward to the future’. They said she tried her best to help and support her ex-husband who gambled away the family’s money.
“I would like to thank the jury for their time and careful consideration, and Valentina’s son, family for their support during this trial, with some providing evidence from Italy and Romania, and for the neighbours and members of the public for their bravery and selflessness in trying to save Valentina’s life. I would like to recognise the dedication and hard work of my colleagues who worked tirelessly and professionally during the search for Constantin and the subsequent investigation.”
Constantin is due to be sentenced at Stafford Crown Court on 31 October.