Thanks to the help of social media a 23-year-old man is now behind bars for raping a woman in Worthing.
CCTV images released of the suspect was shared across social media when it was released by officers investigating the crime back at the beginning of June. It was retweeted 555 times and reached 55,755 people. One of those people who viewed it thought she recognised the man and although she couldn’t remember much about him, she was able to give a small amount of detail.
The images was also spotted on social media by the suspect’s parents who recognised their son and they told him to return to Worthing from Romania where he had been visiting family. Gabriel Lupu, 23, a car valeter, of West Buildings, Worthing, was arrested and charged with rape and robbery.
The victim, a 69-year-old woman from Hove, travelled to Worthing on the bus on Sunday, May 8. However she became confused and disorientated during the evening and was unable to work out how to get home. She withdrew £200 from her bank account and made her way into the Montague Centre where she stood outside MacDonald’s.
At around 1am, Lupu approached the victim and CCTV captured him walking along South Street carrying her handbag and her following. The next camera, outside TK Maxx, shows a struggle between them as she tried to get back her bag, before he’s seen leading her away. They ended up in the nearby Barclays Bank car park where he raped her and stole the £200.
Lupu left her in the car park and returned to dump her bag after taking the cash.
The victim was able to walk to the police station where she reported what had happened. Although she was very confused, officers were able to establish what they believed had happened, and offer her the right support while they began their investigation.
The CCTV from the town centre was trawled through and they soon had their suspect. The footage (pictured) showed the suspect walking past Co-Op in Rowlands Road and through the pedestrian area of Montague Street.
Detective Chief Inspector Tanya Jones from Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team, who led the investigation, decided the release the images of the man they believe may be responsible.
She said: “The images we released showed him walking through Worthing and we were hoping someone might recognise him. We also shared them on social media, which had the desired effect, the public began to share them and within three days we had a snippet of information.”
A woman rang with some potential names and where she believed they might work. Officers visited the car wash where Lupu had connections and one of the staff members was able to contact him and he agreed to meet officers. Detectives showed him and members of staff the CCTV image and they all agreed it was him.
Detectives arrested him just over two weeks after releasing the image.
Lupu initially denied he had any involvement in the rape or robbery of her money, however his DNA was found on her body and on the receipt she got when she withdrew the money, linking him directly.
He appeared at Hove Crown Court on Friday (August 19) after pleading guilty to both offences and was sentenced to 10 years and four years for robbery to run concurrently. The court has ordered that he will be deported back to Romania on his release from prison, will remain on licence for another five years after he is released and will be on the sex offenders register for life.
DCI Jones added: “Lupu took advantage of this very vulnerable woman, his behaviour was despicable. Thankfully he has now pleaded guilty sparing her of the trauma of the trial, and he will now spend a long time in prison and will be deported.
“I would like to thank the lady who phoned with the smallest amount of information but it was vitally important to start working out who Lupu was. I would also like to thank every person who shared and retweeted the CCTV image, without your help we would not have been able to identify him as quickly.”