Pole jailed for girl's killing was paedophile on the run

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The Independent Online

A Polish paedophile who entered Britain on a false passport was jailed for life yesterday for murdering a 12-year-old girl in her home in west London.

A Polish paedophile who entered Britain on a false passport was jailed for life yesterday for murdering a 12-year-old girl in her home in west London.

Andrezej Kunowski, 48, a serial rapist, broke into a flat and strangled Katerina Koneva in May 1997 while on the run from charges of raping a 10-year-old girl in Poland. He was caught last year when he was jailed for raping a 21-year-old Korean student in London.

Katerina, described as a bright, quiet girl, who was doing well at Holland Park school, had sought sanctuary in Britain from Macedonia in the war-torn Balkans two years earlier with her family. The girl's father chased Kunowski from their home in Hammersmith after the attack, unaware that his daughter was dying in an upstairs room. Kunowski escaped after hijacking a car but was charged with Katerina's murder last year when his DNA matched a hair found on the dead girl's cardigan.

The jurors during the trial at the Old Bailey were unaware that Kunowski, of Acton, west London, had a string of convictions for violent sex attacks on 27 women aged 10 to 41. After the verdict, police said they would question him about other unsolved disappearances of girls. Detective Chief Inspector David Little said: "He is probably the most dangerous sex offender I have come across and certainly the most prolific." The jury of four women and eight men took two-and-a-half hours to reach the verdict. Katerina's friends and parents shouted "Yes!" and hugged each other as the verdict was delivered. Outside court, Zaklina Koneva, the girl's mother, said she hoped that Kunowski, who denied murder, would "burn in hell".

A police officer read a statement for her, which said: "Today I do not feel happy. I wish that I was not giving this statement and that Katerina was still here by my side ... I am relieved that this evil man is no longer free to murder or sexually assault another young girl.

"I find it impossible to understand how he was allowed into the UK to commit this crime. Something must be done to ensure that such a thing does not happen again."

Three other schoolgirls the same age as Katerina, also with dark hair, had been stalked in the Hammersmith area around the time of the murder. Kunowski attacked Katerina when she was alone in the family's flat after school. He remained on the loose until 2002 when he raped the Korean student after he advertised a room for let. He was jailed last year for nine years.

Kunowski had been bailed for three months by a judge in Poland so he could have a hip operation, and fled to Britain and continued preying on young girls. He had committed 39 offences in Poland similar to the attack on Katerina: the women were sexually abused after arriving home alone and often choked into unconsciousness. Kunowski was 17 when he first raped a teenager and committed 27 serious sexual offences before he was jailed for 15 years in 1979. He was freed after 10 years following an amnesty.

Police hunting the killer of the teenager Milly Dowler said yesterday that they planned to question Kunowski, adding that there was nothing specific to link him to the 13-year-old's abduction and murder in Surrey in 2002.