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On the evening of Thursday 22nd May 1997, behind the locked doors and secure walls of her own family home, twelve-year-old schoolgirl Katerina Koneva was viscously raped and murdered by a stranger, by a man the Press would dub 'The Beast'. This is part one of three.
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I've added the location of the first-floor-flat at 35 Iffley Road where Katerina was murdered as a red triangle. To use the map, click it. If you want to see the other murder maps, such as Soho, King's Cross, Paddington or the John George Haigh locations, you access them by clicking here.
I've also posted some photos to aid the episode. These photos were taken by myself (copyright Murder Mile) or granted under Government License 3.0, where applicable.
Credits: The Murder Mile UK True-Crime Podcast was researched, written and recorded by Michael J Buchanan-Dunne, with the sounds recorded on location (where possible), and the music written and performed by Erik Stein & Jon Boux of Cult With No Name. Additional music was written and performed as used under the Creative Common Agreement 4.0.
SOURCES: Sadly, as this is a very recent case, there is no original declassified police files held at the National Archives, so I had to use press reports, local interviews and my own research. Some of the sources include:
TRANSCRIPT OF THE EPISODE: PART ONE OF THE BEAST.
SCRIPT: Welcome to Murder Mile; a true-crime podcast and audio guided walk featuring many of London’s untold, unsolved and long-forgotten murders, all set within and beyond the West End.
Today’s episode is about the shocking murder of Katerina Koneva; an innocent little girl whose doting parents had done everything to protect her, she had a nice home, a loving family and a happy life, but in the one place she should have been safest, her innocence shattered at the hands of The Beast.
Murder Mile is researched using authentic sources. It contains moments of satire, shock and grisly details, and as a dramatization of the real events, it may also feature loud and realistic sounds, so that no matter where you listen to this podcast, you’ll feel like you’re actually there.
My name is Michael, I am your tour-guide and this is Murder Mile.
Episode 83: The Beast – Part One.
Today I’m standing on Iffley Road in Shepherd’s Bush, W12; further west than we’d usually trot into the wilds of West London, but just one road east of the Seven Stars café where Reg Christie picked-up Rita Nelson, a six roads north of the Hammersmith nudes murders (which talentless tabloid hacks still blame on boxer Freddie Mills), four roads south of the infamous Wormwood Scrubs police massacre, and two roads west from the strange killers of Vincent Keighery - coming soon to Murder Mile.
Situated four miles west of Soho, Shepherd’s Bush is a melting pot of world culture (but mostly food); here you can munch on a pie n mash, giggle at a Nigerian sauce called Shito, taste the West Indies with a slug of “cock-flavoured” soup, stare at suspicious sausages in the Romanian deli and dodge those avocado-quaffing hipster twats who pretend to prowl the market for tacky crap like the world’s worst hair-weaves, the world’s longest fingernails and the world’s curtest service - where you’re told that everything is “very good, very cheap”, until six seconds after the sale, when it breaks and suddenly it’s “no refund, you leave” - and although Tarquin & Fenella Tosspot claim to frequent the shit-bits of The Bush where every third shop sells fried chicken, everything they buy is actually ordered from Acado.
But for many people seeking safety, Shepherd’s Bush is a sanctuary from the hardship and horrors of the homelands they have fled; it’s a home-from-home, with little pockets packed full of familiar voices, reassuring smells, joyous sights and the traditional skills of barbers, bakers, preachers and tailors.
One such sanctuary was at 35 Iffley Road. For the Koneva family it seemed so perfect; a solid house, on a quiet street, in a safe area, it was just a very ordinary home for two loving parents who had done everything to ensure the safety of their two children. Everything. Or so they thought.
As it was here, on Thursday 22nd May 1997, behind the brick walls and locked doors of their own little home, that Katerina’s life would cruelly be cut-short by a man known only as The Beast. (Interstitial)
Twelve-year-old Katerina Koneva couldn’t have asked for better parents…
Born in 1985 to Trajce (“Tradjz”) and Zaklina Koneva, and raised in the south-eastern European country of North Macedonia, the first decade of Katerina’s life was spent among the tranquil beauty of a region steeped in a history and culture untouched since the days of the Ottoman Empire.
Hailed for its stunning natural wonders and its striking manmade structures, being just one-tenth the size of Britain with a population smaller than West London - although (for almost every country in Europe) the twentieth century brought about a prolonged period of instability - the peaceful state of North Macedonia had always prided itself as being more diverse than most European countries.
Comprising mostly of Macedonians, but also Turks, Greeks, Albanians, Romani Gypsies, Bosnians and Serbs from the Baltic States it borders, as well as embracing two main religions - Eastern Orthodoxy and Islam – two official languages and five regional languages, its racially diverse culture reflected this.
For Trajce and Zaklina, this was their home; here they had family and friends, livelihoods and social lives, a past, a present and a future. North Macedonia was the perfect place to build a house, earn a living and raise their babies in safety - they had no reason to leave…
…but as the world changed for the worse, they knew that the day would come when (for the sake of their children) the Koneva family would be forced to flee.
(Neville Chamberlain quote) As World War Two raged on, economies were crippled, continents were bathed in the blood of innocents and the true horrors of the holocaust skulked in the shadows, with Eastern Europe ripped apart in a tug-of-war between the Fascist, Communist and Allied powers, six socialist republics – Macedonia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (known as Serbia and Montenegro) formed the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
And whilst the world burned, dead were buried and the freshest water the so-called winners of the war saw were the bitter tears of loss they had wept, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was (to many) a beacon of stability in an unstable Europe, as guided by authoritarian dictator General Josip Tito, across the 1960’s and 70’s when Communism was seen ‘the way of the future’, Yugoslavia had blossomed into an economic success story and - in comparison to the ruins of the West - life was good.
By 1980, before Trajce and Zaklina had met, General Tito was dead, and as thousands of Macedonians lined the streets of Skopje (Scorpia) to mourn a man some saw as great, his death marked the end of an era and for many Yugoslavians, and as ethnic tensions rose, for many it marked a death sentence.
Five years later, Katerina was born - a beautiful little baby with long dark hair and elfin-like features, who was so pretty, so delicate and so sweet, she was impossible not to love and fight to protect.
(Ronald Reagan quote - “bring down this wall”) But by 1989, as many countries cheered the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent collapse of communism, Yugoslavia’s stability seeped away and unleashed a tidal wave of bigotry and hatred, as the six socialist republics divided down ethnic lines.
By 1991, as Katerina’s little brother Christian was born, Slovenia and Croatia had split, the Soviet Union would fall and with the Bosnian Serbs declaring independence, Yugoslavia would soon collapse and four years of brutal war and genocide would follow. One and a half million people would be displaced, thirteen and a half thousand were murdered or vanished, and countless numbers of men, women and babies were beaten, raped and dumped in mass graves, many of which are still being discovered today.
And although the tiny country of North Macedonia was still peaceful, for now, being bordered by both Bosnia and Serbia, as the Kosovo conflict escalated, it was clear to all that the wolf was at the door.
In 1993, being out-of-options, Trajce fled to England to seek sanctuary for his loved-ones, but forced to leave his wife and kids behind, every day he phoned, praying but never knowing if they were alive.
In 1995, after two long years apart, Trajce and Zaklina wept tears of joy as finally their little family was reunited. They had risked everything, lost so much and now they owned nothing but what they could carry, and although they stood in a strange land, unable to speak the language, at least they were safe.
As ten-year-old Katerina took her first steps on English soil, across her tiny doll-like frame hung a bright red strap, as clutched tightly to her chest was a red-and-white Virgin Airlines bag packed full of her
most cherished possessions; photos of home, a colouring-in book and a teddy. For such a timid little girl, she must have been scared, but as she held her parent’s hands, she knew she would be okay.
Only two years later, Katerina would be dead. (Interstitial).
By 1997, as Macedonia teetered towards the brink of all-out-war, now aged twelve, Katerina and her family had settled into a safe and comfortable routine in their new home in West London.
Home was a first floor flat at 35 Iffley Road in Shepherd’s Bush; it was a little small for a family of four, so with the kitchen as a sitting-room, a bedroom for the adults and Katerina and Christian sharing a room at the front, it was a little cosy, but the higher rent meant they could live in a better area. And Iffley Street was just that; two long rows of terraced houses, all with solid walls, good locks and strong doors, on a street lined with bright lights, good neighbours and big windows. It was perfect for a family.
For Katerina, being a little girl in a big city, this strange new world was no longer scary, as at the top of her own street was Goldhawk Road; a strip of family-run stores staffed by overseas visitors (just like herself) but also a mix of Turks, Greeks and Albanians - their words were familiar, their faces were right, their market stalls wafted with the joyous smell of foods from her homeland and (as it was back in Macedonia) in the drycleaners window sat stocky little tailor intricately hand-stitching the hem of a school uniform, his chunky little digits seemingly too big for such fine work, but his skills undeniable.
Shepherd’s Bush was now her home and although her mum and dad juggled their busy schedule of being parents, workers and part-time students, learning English and new skills to give them all a better life, to keep their babies safe, Trajce and Zaklina always kept to a tight routine, ensuring that at least one of them would be home, when Katerina left for school, and when she returned.
For two years, it had worked perfectly… but sometimes life would get in the way, sometimes their best laid plans would go awry, and sometimes, even in the safety of their own home, a small unavoidable delay of just a few minutes would cost their beautiful daughter her life.
Thursday 22nd May 1997 was just an ordinary day; it was warm, clear and dry.
Coming to the end of her first year at Holland Park School, a secondary school snuck between Hyde Park and Notting Hill - although (being just one day before the half term break) a ripple of excitement bristled amongst the students – Year 7 sat in silence, their heads down, their eyes fixed and the only sounds being a ticking clock and the scribble of pens, as all were eager to finish their English exam.
Among a sea of charcoal grey jackets, black shoes and blue blouses, Katerina wasn’t difficult to spot; as although she was only slight, framed by her long dark hair, brown eyes and cheeky little smile, her cherubic face beamed with a mix of excitement and pride.
Described by her headmistress as an "exceptional pupil", Katerina had done well, she’d worked hard, she’d studied, and as a bright girl who had only began learning English as her second language two years before, to make her parents proud for all the sacrifices they had made, she had excelled. Finally, her future looked as rosy as her cheeks, as she dreamed of either becoming a pianist or a teacher.
It was ironic that on the day Katerina took her test, Trajce would also sit an exam, and although (like many adults) he had struggled to learn the language, being a quiet, sweet but truly smart girl, Katerina had come top of her class in English. It was news that she so wanted to share with her beloved daddy…
…but she never would. Trajce later said "we found out how well she'd done afterwards. She never got to tell us herself. She was so bright. I will always be very proud of my beautiful daughter".
As was her routine, at 3:15pm, Katerina exited Holland Park School and headed up Campden Hill Road to Notting Hill Gate, her tiny steps a little quicker than usual, as she was eager to get home. As always, across her chest was her red-and-white Virgin Airlines bag - little tattier than before but no less loved.
At 3:36pm, at Stop D by the Coronet Cinema, Katerina boarded the 94 bus. Her button nose pressed uncomfortably close to the sweaty pits of the older kids, and made even more torturous as the eightminute journey down to Shepherd’s Bush Green took almost twice as long in the school-run traffic.
At 3:50pm, savouring the fresh air and waving farewell to her school chums (for what would be the last time), the familiar little frame of 12-year-old Katerina - in her grey/blue uniform, short white socks and long dark hair - exited the bus at Stop K by Goldhawk Road tube and turned left into Iffley Road.
…unaware that someone was watching.
Her walk from bus-to-door took eight minutes. It was a week day, in broad daylight and the street was a usual mix of kids heading home, playing-out or biding their time till dinner. Never once did she pass any parks, alleys or bushes; derelict buildings, abandoned cars or suspicious strangers. The only sounds heard was the reassuring din of kid’s TV, the thud of thwacked footballs and the squeak of bikes.
Pushing open the wrought-iron gate, as Katerina passed brown brick wall and entered the tiny front garden (which like most of the houses had no grass, just pot plants, bikes and space for the bins), excitedly she pulled out her key and opened the large dark-blue front-door at 35 Iffley Road.
…unaware that someone was waiting.
At roughly 4pm, as expected, she entered the hallway; to the left was a door to the neighbour’s ground floor flat, and ahead, a set of stairs up to her home. Eagerly she called “daddy?”, but there was no reply. She called again, “daddy?”, her awesome news burning a hole in her throat, but still there was no reply. And as she closed the dark heavy door behind her, the Yale lock made a satisfying click.
…unaware that someone was listening.
Oddly the flat was quiet and empty. For the first time ever; mum, dad and six-year-old Christian were out, so Katerina was all alone, but she wasn’t afraid. Being a few months from the awkward onset of her teenage years, this was a hint at the freedom and space she would ultimately crave, and besides being inside her own home, behind locked doors and shut windows, she knew she would be safe.
So although a little deflated, knowing her daddy must be near and that she would have to hold onto her news for a few minutes more, in the first-floor bedroom she shared with her brother, she popped on the telly, pulled down the blinds of the large bay window which overlooked the street, and changed out of dull grey uniform and into a woollen cardigan, a white t-shirt and tracksuit bottoms.
…unaware that someone was approaching.
As Trajce finished his exam and put down his pen, his shattered nerves weren’t over how well he had done but how quickly he could get home, as with the start of the exam having been delayed and everything else running late, by four o’clock his work was done, but he knew Katerina would be alone.
The first chance he got; he called his home phone, (rings) she should have been in by now, (rings) but the phone just kept ringing (rings). Minutes later, he tried again, (rings) but she never replied. And as his college was still several miles from Shepherd’s Bush, “I raced home fast on my bicycle, because it was the first time my daughter was alone in the house after school”.
…unaware that someone was already entering the flat.
There were no witnesses to her murder, so what follows is based on the Police investigation.
At a little after four thirty pm, as Katerina sat watching TV, she didn’t hear him pop the lock, she didn’t hear him open the front door and she didn’t hear his boots silently ascend the stairs. In fact, nobody did, none of the neighbours across the street, nor the man in the ground floor flat. And although her parents had never been late before, having watched her, he knew that this little girl was all alone.
A few moments later, the lounge door squeaked as a man pushed it open. Excitedly, little Katerina sprung to her feet; her instincts were to give her daddy a big hug, her lips were desperate to tell him how she had been top-of-the-class in English, and her face eager to see the pride on her daddy’s face…
…only it wasn’t her daddy.
Nobody heard her scream, nobody heard her cry, nobody heard her whimper; there were no thumps, no bumps and no bangs; nothing shuffled, moved or creaked. The Beast had silenced her, and over the next ten minutes, the terrified little girl was all alone in her own home with the stranger.
At 4:40pm, a little sweaty and tired having sped through the rush-hour traffic, Trajce pulled into his garden, and as he locked-up his bike, everything looked normal and nothing looked out of place. His front door was closed, his lock was undamaged, the hallway was neat, and as he walked up his own stairs, into his own flat, he heard no sounds but the din of kid’s TV and his own voice calling “Katerina?”
With the kitchen empty and the bathroom vacant, being a small flat, there was only one place that Katerina could be – her bedroom. Again, Trajce knocked “Katerina?”, but strangely, she didn’t reply. Maybe she was listening to music? Maybe she was annoyed that he was late? Or maybe, as a pre-teen girl, so close to puberty, she needed a little privacy to change? So, to give his baby space, Trajce stood quietly outside of her bedroom door and patiently waited. (Silence; no sounds but telly and breathing).
…but she never came out.
As a sweet, bright and timid little girl; her door was always open, her reply was always polite and when called, she would always answer, but this time she didn’t and it worried him. Again, he knocked, (knocks) “Katerina?”, louder this time, (knocks) “Katerina?”, but still – nothing.
He peeped through keyhole, she was definitely there, as dumped on the floor was her red-and-white Virgin Airways bag and her charcoal grey uniform, and although the bedroom door had no key, when he yanked down the handle, the door wouldn’t budge, as a chair was wedging it shut.
Fearing his beloved child may have fallen, Trajce tried pushing it, but it didn’t move; he tried shoving it, but it wouldn’t shift, so he dropped to his knees to peek through the gap between the door and the floor to see what heavy object was blocking it, and when he did, his heart stopped dead. As behind the door of his little daughter’s bedroom, he saw a black pair of men’s shoes.
Terrified for his daughter’s life, Trajce barged it hard, he kicked it and threw his body at it, screaming, punching, yelling, doing anything he could to get to Katerina, but the stranger was forcing it shut.
With the bedroom door shut, knowing the man’s only escape route was through a first-floor window, Trajce dashed down the stairs, screaming “police” at the top of his lungs, making as much racket as possible and alerting the neighbours, a few who came to their windows and doors, but many did not.
And as the frantic father burst through his own front door, his path was blocked by those same pair of black shoes which now dangled off the first-floor ledge, and as they plunged to the floor, Trajce came face to face with The Beast. "I remember the way the man looked at me, he was so cool, so calm, I ask him ‘What are you doing in my house?’ he said nothing, he just looked at me and ran away”.
Unsure who the burglar was or what he had stolen, Trajce chased the dark-haired brute down the residential streets of Iffley Road, up Hebron Road, along Armor Road and over Hammersmith Grove, all the while screaming “help me, help me” as he bared down on the short stocky stranger. But as he turned into Trussley Road, and grabbed hold of the fleeing housebreaker’s hood, on his heels, The Beast spun and glared at Trajce - a small drop of blood on his dusky face, a large knife in his hairy hand.
Unarmed and afraid, although the mild-mannered dad was desperate to confront the fleeing bastard who had broken into his family home, two workmen from a nearby warehouse wisely held him back.
And as he stared for that brief moment at The Beast – the stranger’s eyes all dark and circled, his barrel-chest all raspy and heaving and his thick eyebrows like rotting slugs on an old boiled egg, above his fat sweaty chin was plastered the shit-eating grin of a man who knew he would be free. And having hijacked a black Fiat Uno, in a plume of dust, The Beast sped off down the side streets… and was gone.
By the time Trajce had raced back to his flat and broke down the bedroom door to see what the burglar had stolen and to comfort his terrified daughter, he had been away for no more than two minutes. And although nothing appeared to have been touched, The Beast had taken something truly precious.
Crumpled on the bedroom floor lay the little frame of twelve-year-old Katerina; her cardigan, white tshirt and tracksuit bottoms all dishevelled and torn, her long dark hair a tangled mess and her sweet pixie-like face a hideous swollen shade of blue, as fastened in place with a school pen and wound tightly around her tiny neck, Katerina had been garrotted by the strap of her Virgin Airlines bag.
And although she lay there, with her mouth agape, her face contorted, her little body all bruised and bloody having been raped by a violent monster, and a jagged series of scratches across the throat as (during the attack) her delicate fingers had struggled to claw herself free from the thick red strap which strangled her, although motionless, she was still barely breathing and clinging onto life.
"I tried to release it. It was too tight. I could not get it”, unable to unwind the strap, Trajce ran into the kitchen, "I took a knife. I cut it. I started to cry and call her name – ‘Katerina, Katerina’. I was bending over her crying when the Police arrived. I remember one of them telling me to help him to resuscitate her. He showed me where to push her chest. But I just couldn't do it. I was just so shocked. I felt weak and hopeless. I didn't want to touch her in case I hurt her"… but it was too late. At just after 5pm, having been raped and strangled, twelve-year-old Katerina Koneva was pronounced dead. (End)
As if witnessing the death of his beloved daughter wasn’t enough; knowing that she was terrified, knowing that she was alone and knowing that her beloved daddy had been unable to protect, a postmortem later concluded that Katerina had been strangled for no longer than two or three minutes, which meant that, whilst Trajce was chasing The Beast, his baby daughter lay dying.
Mary Marsh, headteacher at the Holland Park School wrote to all parents saying: "It is with profound sadness that I write to tell you of the tragic death of Katerina Koneva. Katerina was attacked at home soon after she returned from school. I know you will share our shock and deep distress about this. Katerina was an exceptional student. She is a great loss to us all".
Outside of their flat at 35 Iffley Road, neighbours placed flowers, friends left messages and a service was held the local church - but for Trajce, Zaklina and Christian - their home was no longer filled with happiness, their lives no longer had purpose and their hearts would forever be broken.
The tiny coffin of innocent little Katerina Koneva was buried in Mortlake Cemetery; her dreams were gone, her life was over and she had been slain by The Beast who had vanished into thin air, so there would be no justice, no trial, no arrest, and having given up so much – by fleeing war-torn Macedonia
and restarting a new life from scratch in a strange land, all to protect their beloved babies – tragically, Katerina had been murdered in the one place she should have been safe – her own home.
OUTRO: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for listening to Murder Mile.
Part Two of this three-part episode of The Beast continues next week.
If you’re new to Murder Mile, don’t forget to stay after the break as there’s more fun with Extra Mile.
Before that, a big belated thank you to my new Patreon supporters who are Renee Rasanen, Leon Hargreaves, Stephanie Hughes, Karen Rees, Danny Rolfe, Julia Diamond, Linda Davidson, Tasha Fischer, James Paris and Michelle Dutton, who all get exclusive Murder Mile goodies in the post, and – whilst Murder Mile was offline – some secret little videos about places which changed the world. And a big thank you to you all for listening to and sharing Murder Mile with your chums.
And just to say, if you love the murder location videos I post on my blog, all videos for past episodes are now available via my Youtube Channel, there’s a link to it in the show-notes and even more exciting goodies and information about the live shows in Extra Mile.
Murder Mile was researched, written & performed by myself, with the main musical themes written and performed by Erik Stein & Jon Boux of Cult With No Name.
Thank you for listening and sleep well.
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a writer, crime historian, podcaster and tour-guide who runs Murder Mile Walks, a guided tour of Soho’s most notorious murder cases, hailed as “one of the top ten curious, quirky, unusual and different things to do in London”, nominated "one of the best true-crime podcasts at the British Podcast Awards 2018", one of The Telegraph's top five true-crime podcasts and featuring 12 murderers, including 3 serial killers, across 15 locations, totaling 50 deaths, over just a one mile walk
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a crime writer, podcaster of Murder Mile UK True Crime and creator of true-crime TV series.
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