Home Office ‘failed to deport illegal migrant who later killed sister-in-law’, court hears

The Old Bailey - Andrew Holt/Getty Images
The Old Bailey - Andrew Holt/Getty Images

A convicted wife killer living illegally in the UK was able to murder his sister-in-law even though she reported him to the Home Office to get him deported, a court has heard.

Nicolae Virtosu, 48, was convicted of unlawfully killing his first wife, Anastasia, in 2009. He is now on trial accused of murdering his brother’s wife with a hatchet at the home they shared in Ilford, east London.

Svetlana Mihalachi, 53, was allegedly killed by Mr Virtosu in April 2021 after household tensions escalated over lockdown, jurors at the Old Bailey were told.

Mr Virtosu, originally from Moldova, was an illegal immigrant and had been living with his brother, Iurie, and Ms Mihalachi since 2018, the court heard.

He is alleged to have subjected her to a campaign of intimidation and threats in the months before she died.

Catherine Pattison, prosecuting, told the jury that Ms Mihalachi and the family knew about Mr Virtosu’s conviction and she lived in “genuine fear” that her brother-in-law would kill her.

Victim ‘contacted Home Office and police’

Ms Mihalachi contacted immigration officers at the Home Office in the hope they would deport him, then called police to report Mr Virtosu one month before her death, the court heard.

She told a practice manager at the Reach Out domestic violence hub that she did not understand why the Home Office and police did not help her, the jury was told.

“Do they want someone to be killed before they do anything?” she was said to have asked.

The court heard that there was “no dispute or issue” that Mr Virtosu killed his sister-in-law and that he did so by striking her repeatedly with a hatchet.

The jury was told they must decide why he did it and what his “state of mind” was at the time.

Ms Pattison said this was a “clear case of murder”.

During lockdown, the prosecutor said, “cracks started to appear” in the relationship between Mr Virtosu and Ms Mihalachi, with arguments over chores, noise and money.

When asked to move out, the defendant refused, allegedly telling his brother: “I do what I want. No woman commands me. She’s at fault, not me.”

‘She feared defendant would kill her. She was right’

Ms Pattison said: “Svetlana became worried for her safety. She feared that the defendant would kill her. She was right.

“You see, this isn’t the first time that the defendant has killed someone. On Sept 20 2009, the defendant was convicted of unlawful killing his then-wife, Anastasia Virtosu, by strangulation. The defendant’s conviction for unlawful killing was known within the family.”

The prosecutor added that Mr Virtosu “used” the fact that he had killed his ex-wife against Ms Mihalachi “to make her believe that when he was threatening to kill her, he meant it”.

In Feb 2021, the defendant allegedly said he would “cut a devil’s head off” and “go to prison”.

On one occasion, the defendant allegedly told his brother: “In the same way that I have killed my wife, I could easily kill yours too. It’s not a big deal.”

‘I don’t know what else to do’

Ms Mihalachi asked a friend to send an anonymous letter to the Home Office Immigration Services in December 2020 to try to get him deported, the court heard.

After another threat on March 3 2021, Ms Mihalachi called the police. She told the operator: “I have a very big problem. In my house lives a man who doesn’t have any paperwork.”

She added: “I don’t know what else to do, that’s why I called the police.”

Officers explained they could not evict the defendant but would report him to immigration services, the court heard.

Social services became involved and the victim's case was due to be discussed on April 20 last year at a multi agency risk assessment conference.

But by then, she had already suffered her fatal injuries, dying in hospital on May 12 last year, the court heard.

Mr Virtosu, of Barkingside, Ilford, denies murder and two counts of threats to kill. The trial continues.