News by email Donate

Suggestions

Top Stories

Most Read

Popular Videos

UK News

Man who beat homeless woman to death on church steps jailed for life

by Press Association
 - Banner image

A man who beat a woman to death with a rock as she slept in a church doorway during the first lockdown has been jailed for life.

Kieran Rifat subjected homeless Kelly Stewart, 41, to a frenzied attack then dragged her to an alleyway and assaulted her again with a large gas canister.

The Old Bailey was told Rifat had taken out his anger on "gentle and unassuming" Miss Stewart after an argument with her ex-boyfriend.

Earlier that evening, as she bedded down outside the Memorial Church in Plaistow, east London, a charity worker had called out: "Kelly - get off the streets, the corona is coming."

Rifat, 22, of Grange Road, Plaistow, admitted her murder and was jailed for life with a minimum term of 18 years on Thursday.

Judge John Hillen QC described how Miss Stewart had brought up a family as a single mother before suffering mental health problems later in life.

Relatives who attended court described her as a talented artist, designer and cook who also sang and acted.

The judge said it appeared "the safety net failed and she became a street dweller", seeking sanctuary outside the church she knew in her early years and where she felt safe.

She had left a Newham mental health centre on March 20 last year.

Early on March 26, Rifat, who did odd jobs at the church, attacked her with "protracted and extreme violence".

Addressing the defendant in the dock, Judge Hillen said: "As she slept, without warning, you attacked her with a rock and then repeatedly stamped on her, returning again and again to her dead or dying body and stamping again and again with the heel of your foot on her face in an act not merely of violence but of deliberate degradation.

"You dragged her into the alleyway where you attacked her with a large gas canister."

The court heard Rifat rifled through her belongings and tried to conceal the body before discarding his bloodstained clothes in the flat of an acquaintance.

Much of the murder was caught on CCTV and a trail of blood led officers to the body.

Miss Stewart's facial injuries were so severe she was unrecognisable, the court heard.

Rifat was described as "very aggressive and angry with himself".

When he was tracked down and arrested on April 1, he said: "Murder, what murder? I haven't murdered no-one, I don't understand."

The court heard that Miss Stewart and Rifat knew each other through local homelessness services.

In mitigation, Jennifer Dempster QC said Rifat, originally from Warwick, had a troubled upbringing.

He had issues with drugs and alcohol and had trained as a cook.

She said: "Because of an argument with her ex-boyfriend he accepts he took his anger out on her."

Bridget Fitzpatrick, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said "This was an unprovoked, vicious attack on a woman in the most vulnerable of positions.

"The strong prosecution case included CCTV footage of the violent attack, which allowed police to go on to identify Rifat as the killer, leaving him with little choice but to admit his guilt."

Detective Inspector Darren Jones, of Scotland Yard, said: "I have been a detective for years and investigated many violent cases, but Rifat's attack truly did shock myself and the team with his mindless, wilful cruelty.

"Kelly was peacefully sleeping on church steps when she was attacked, and had done nothing to provoke Rifat's terrible actions. I do not know what went through his mind when he targeted her and, to this day, he has still not explained why he did what he did.

"Our thoughts remain with Kelly's family throughout this very painful time."

Continue the conversation on our Facebook page

A Monthly Gift Of $11 Makes A World Of Difference

In a world of fake news there’s never been a greater need for quality Christian journalism. Premier’s mission is to provide the Church with the most up to date and relevant news, told from a Christian perspective. But we can’t do it without you.

Unlike many websites we haven't put up a paywall — we want to keep our journalism free at the point of need and as open as we can. Premier’s news output takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce. No one in the USA is sharing news like we are across radio, magazines and online so please help us to continue that today.

For a monthly gift of $11 or more we’d also be able to send you a free copy of the brand new Premier Bible, a wonderful Anglicised version of the NLT packed with exclusive bonus content, reading plan and resources to help you get the most out of scripture.

Your monthly support will make a world of difference. Thank you.

Set up a monthly gift

Related Articles

Sign up to our newsletter to stay informed with news from a Christian perspective.

News by email

Connect

Donate

Donate