Aman Vyas’ 37-year jail sentence brings an end to eleven-year wait for justice, reports James Cracknell
Justice has finally been served for the man who raped and murdered a woman in a Walthamstow playground – eleven years following the brutal attack.
The Metropolitan Police investigation into the death of 35-year-old Michelle Samaraweera in Queen’s Road in May 2009 finally concluded with the sentencing this week of Aman Vyas, 36, after a trial at the Old Bailey last month.
Vyas was found guilty of raping and murdering Michelle in addition to the rape of three other women in the weeks leading up to the killing. All the offences took place in Walthamstow over a two-month period, including in a graveyard, an alleyway, and a woman’s own home where he had forced entry. Vyas was sentenced to 37 years in prison at Croydon Crown Court – with time taken off for the years he has already spent behind bars.
The decade-long investigation to catch and convict Vyas was described by the lead detective as “extraordinary” and “remarkable”. Vyas had fled abroad in his bid to escape justice, requiring an international effort to eventually find him and bring him back to the UK.
An initial police appeal featured on the BBC’s Crimewatch programme, while police carried out enquiries at 1,815 addresses in the Markhouse Road area of Walthamstow. Vyas was eventually identified as the main suspect in the case 18 months after the murder, when his former boss recognised him and gave police a water bottle that he had drunk from, resulting in a DNA match.
It transpired that Vyas had flown to India shortly after the killing – he was arrested by Indian authorities in July 2011. A long extradition process then followed before Vyas was finally brought back to London in October last year, when he was charged.
Detective Sergeant Shaleena Sheikh said: “There has been a long wait for justice in this case but finally the victims and their families have seen the person responsible brought to account. Vyas did all he could to avoid responsibility for his crimes. He fled abroad and then added to the distress of those he hurt by making them go through the ordeal of a trial. However, the injuries Vyas inflicted told the true story of this violent criminal and the jury have seen right through his lies.
“Although we had DNA from the scenes of his crimes, Vyas was not on the DNA database and was a complete stranger to his victims; to bring him to justice required an extraordinary investigation. This case lasted more than ten years, needed enquiries in many different countries and finally a lengthy extradition process.
“The sheer scale of the investigation was also remarkable. There were extensive media appeals, and thousands of homes and businesses were contacted. Thousands of men volunteered to assist by voluntarily giving DNA. I would personally like to thank all those who helped, it was through those extensive efforts that Vyas was finally identified and brought to justice.
“Vyas’s crimes were wicked and relentless and I am thankful that such violent predators are rare. If you are a victim of sexual crime, please tell us – you will be supported.”
Michelle was a widow who lived alone in Hainault, but frequently came to Walthamstow to visit her boyfriend. Vyas was found guilty of her murder, plus six counts of rape and one of grievous bodily harm. He was found not guilty of one count of possession of a bladed weapon.
Michelle’s sister, Ann, said: “Aman Vyas has had over eleven years to come clean and admit to raping and murdering my sister, and even longer to admit to all the other heinous crimes committed against the other innocent victims. He has also had all this time to reflect on his own life and address the issues that have turned him into the monster that he is but he didn’t.
“Instead he has lied and fabricated stories for his own benefit. He will never understand what he put my mother, sisters, children, loved ones, friends and myself through.
“Michelle was always so thoughtful when it came to buying gifts for anyone, my daughter still has the beautiful blanket she gave her and she has slept with it every day up until now. One week before my daughter’s first birthday, I stayed up all night making colourful paper chains for her upcoming birthday party, only to wake up the next day to find out that my baby sister had been found dead in a children’s playground.
“Vyas has no idea what impact this has had on mine and my children’s lives. I hope one day Vyas finds it in his heart to confess and truly be sorry for the pain inflicted on the innocent women he violated. They are the ones that are serving life sentences. Vyas potentially spending the rest of his life in prison is not a punishment but a privilege, it will never be enough.”
Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy said on social media: “We never gave up. We demanded justice for Michelle. Eleven years on, we have it.”