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Man jailed for murdering woman as she took shelter by a church in Plaistow

Kieran Rifat has still not said why he killed Kelly Stewart (credit: Metropolitan Police)

A man who murdered a woman while she slept on the steps of a church in Plaistow has been jailed for life. 

Kieran Rifat, 22, beat Kelly Stewart to death as she took shelter outside Memorial Community Church, in Barking Road, on Thursday, 26 March 2020. 

Rifat approached the victim without any provocation and stamped on her repeatedly until she died. He then hid her body in a side alley. 

Kelly Stewart was murdered at 1am in the morning but due to the coronavirus lockdown her body was only discovered later that day at 3.10pm by a member of the public. 

A post-mortem examination revealed she died from multiple head and facial injuries. 

Kelly Stewart was taking shelter by a church when she was attacked (credit: Met Police)

Detectives launched an investigation but found it difficult to locate witnesses due to the coronavirus lockdown. 

No one was identified as having a motive to hurt Kelly, which meant there were no immediate suspects. 

Officers undertook an intensive CCTV trawl but a lot of the footage was of poor quality. 

Fortunately, one officer spotted someone at the scene wearing a distinctive striped hooded top which allowed them to track his movements to and from the church. 

Officers went door to door speaking to potential witnesses and associates and were eventually able to identify the suspect as Rifat. 

He was known to Kelly via a homeless community outreach centre but there was no known history between them to suggest Rifat had a motive to attack her. 

He was arrested on the street on Wednesday, 1 April 2020 and police searched an address in Queens Road, Barking, the following day. 

Officers found bloodied clothes in a bath including the distinctive stripped top. 

Rifat did not respond to any questions while being interviewed by police and has never said why he killed Kelly. 

He pleaded guilty to murder at the Old Bailey on Wednesday, 23 December 2020 and was sentenced to serve a minimum of 17 years in prison today. 

“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,” said Detective Inspector Darren Jones.

“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.”

For more on this story, and the latest on our other local and national news, listen to Time 107.5FM

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