A LATE night prowler has been found guilty of raping a lone woman as she walked home through a historic cemetery after a night out in Exeter.

Cosmin-Nicolae Vasioiu spent an hour and 45 minutes hanging around outside pubs and clubs in the early hours of a Saturday morning last June waiting to find a suitable target. 

He ended up following the victim from the city centre at around 1 am and attacking her in the Catacombs graveyard off Exe Street, where he stripped and raped her.

Vasioiu is a Romanian national who came to Britain after serving a prison sentence for a near identical rape in Vaud, Switzerland, in 2014, for which he was jailed in 2016.

He remained in Britain after Brexit without going through the proper registration process which may have flagged up his previous convictions.

He was living in a garden shed and doing gardening work at the time when he carried out the new rape on June 18 last year. 

Police were able to piece together his movements in the 105 minutes before the attack through more than a dozen different CCTV clips from city centre surveillance cameras and those from shops and pubs.

The footage showed him hanging around outside the Chevalier Pub and Vaults night club and following another lone woman before approaching her and being brushed off.

The victim was found hysterical and screaming for help after Vasioiu left her naked and with bruising a few metres inside the Catacombs, which was also called the St Bartholomew cemetery.

She had been drinking for ten hours before leaving a city centre pub and was walking home on her own after eating a McDonalds. She was vulnerable because she was drunk.

Her clothes and belongings were found nearby along with Vasioiu’s baseball cap which he dropped as he fled. 

Vasioiu denied having been in the area but changed his story after CCTV showed him following the woman into the Catacombs. He then denied attacking her until DNA showed it was him.

He maintained that story until half way through his first trial at Exeter Crown Court when he suddenly claimed that the woman had consented. The trial had to be stopped after his legal team withdrew. 

Vasioiu, aged 46, of Topsham Road, Exeter, denied rape. He did not give evidence at either trial and was found guilty after less than an hour by the jury. They were told about his previous conviction for rape during the four-day trial.

Recorder Mr Malcolm Galloway adjourned sentence until July and ordered a psychiatric assessment and a pre-sentence report to assess the level of danger which he poses.

He asked for representations from the prosecution and defence about sentencing guidelines and the possibility of imposing a life sentence.

During the trial Mr Joss Ticehurst, prosecuting, said Vasioiu followed the woman down steps from the Iron Bridge into the cemetery. 

He shaved off his beard and hair immediately after the attack to disguise his appearance and got a friend to wash his clothes to try to remove forensic evidence.

Vasioiu did not give evidence but his defence barrister Miss Fern Schofield told the jury they could not be sure that the woman had not consented because she was so drunk she could not remember what happened.

Miss Schofield said Vasioiu may have had a reasonable belief that she had consented.