Georgian Constantin faces life in prison for murdering ex-wife Valentina Cozma after setting her on fire
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A jealous husband is facing life in jail after being found guilty of murdering his estranged wife by dousing her with petrol and setting her on fire.
The charred body of Valentina Cozma, 40, was discovered by fire crews at her home on Campbell Road, in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire on 9 February. A court heard how a firefighter described the mum-of-one's body being so contorted from the devastating blaze that she resembled a "wax figure".
Police launched a manhunt for her ex-husband Georgian Constantin after he admitted attacking her in a Facebook post he later deleted. He was arrested 150 miles away in London five days later and charged with Valentina's murder.
On Thursday Constantin, 42, was found guilty of the charge following a trial at Stafford Crown Court. He was also convicted of making threats to kill Valentina's new boyfriend after he used her phone to tell him he'd "sorted her out and was coming for him". Constantin, of Stoke-on-Trent, will be sentenced on Tuesday, October 31.
The court was told Constantin had arranged to meet Valentina at her house under the pretence of repaying £500. She had lent him the money in order to allow him to move out of the family home a month earlier. But at around 3pm, neighbours and passers-by reported hearing screams from the house and called emergency services.
The kitchen was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived and when the blaze was finally brought under control, Valentina’s body was discovered below the back window in the middle room. She was pronounced dead at the scene and a post mortem later established she had died due to the effects of fire.
Detectives found a plastic bottle in the back yard containing petrol and the bottle cap was found to contain DNA that matched Constantin. CCTV captured him purchasing a green plastic jerry can, filling it up with petrol and paying for it at Sainsbury’s petrol station - even though he didn't have a car.
Constantin went into two shops in Hanley to try to sell his laptop saying he ‘needed money’ on the day of the murder. The shops declined to buy it and this same laptop was found at the scene near to Valentina’s body. Further CCTV footage showed Constantin outside Valentina’s house again at 2.32pm, just minutes before the fire.
Det Insp Adrian Webb, of Staffordshire Police, said after the case: “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.”