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Welcome to the Murder Mile UK True-Crime Podcast and audio guided walk of London's most infamous and often forgotten murder cases, set within and beyond the West End.
This is part two of three about the shocking murder of Katerina Koneva; an innocent little girl who was brutally raped and strangled to death in her own bedroom by an unknown assailant, it was a devastating attack which would destroy a family forever, but not for the reasons you might expect.
As many photos of the case are copyright protected by greedy news organisations, to view them, take a peek at my entirely legal social media accounts - Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
The location of Shepherd's Bush Police Station where the Police first suspect in the murder of Katerina Koneva was held, it's marked with a yellow 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 or Reg Christie locations, you access them by clicking here.
I've also posted some photos to aid your "enjoyment" of 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: To name a few:
TRANSCRIPT OF THE EPISODE: PART TWO 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 part two about the shocking murder of Katerina Koneva; an innocent little girl who was brutally raped and strangled to death in her own bedroom by an unknown assailant, it was a devastating attack which would destroy a family forever, but not for the reasons you might expect.
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 84: The Beast – Part Two.
Today I’m standing on Uxbridge Road, off Shepherds Bush Green, W12; one street north of the home of murdered school-girl Katerina Koneva, half a mile south of Old Oak Road where Marta Ligman was shoved into a suitcase and drowned in the canal, a few yards from the First Date Killer’s bloody pitstop, and two stops south of the death of eight-year-old Peter Buckingham – coming soon to Murder Mile.
Shepherds Bush is dreary and grim. What began as a quaint little village dotted about a crisp little green on the outskirts of London, has since been swamped by an ever-growing city sullied by the same old deadbeats sitting in the same old shops; whether fat waddling sprogs wheezing into a McDonalds, the permanently pissed piddling away their benefits in Paddy Power, shit parents letting their sweet little angels run-like-loons among the blisteringly hot liquids in Costa (because buying a coffee is easier than going to a park and cheaper than hiring a babysitter), and the usual rag-tag band of old bigots banging on the Wetherspoons doors at 6am, to celebrate their fiftieth year of “taking a sickie”, with a pint, a pie and a perusal of their favourite fascist tabloid featuring a headline about how the “benefits sponging illegal immigrants killed the Queen Mum” – all while whinging about anyone who’s brown, gay or “looks like a terrorist”, having started every sentence with the phrase “I’m not racist, but…”.
Keeping tabs on it all, at 252 Uxbridge Road, just by the green and one-street north of Goldhawk Road is Shepherd’s Bush Police Station; a truly ugly Soviet-style building made of concrete blocks, where usually a panicked victim could pop in to report a viscous assault, but since the former Home Secretary and (now) Britain’s second worst Prime Minister in history (Theresa May) decimated our police force, closed almost every station and had the front office at Shepherds Bush shut, all that remains to inform the terrified is a little sign telling you to either call 999, report it online, or to go elsewhere.
And although the cells at Shepherds Bush still house not only thugs, muggers, burglars, rapists and terrorists, it once it held the Police’s prime suspect in the murder of twelve-year-old Katerina Koneva.
As it was here, on the evening of Thursday 22nd May 1997, following the initial investigation and just hours after her murder, that the Police began questioning their prime suspect. (Interstitial)
The Koneva’s first floor flat at 35 Iffley Road was no longer a family home… it was a crime scene.
As the sun began to set over Shepherd’s Bush, the silent thrum of flashing blue lights illuminated both sides of this quiet residential road, and where-as just hours before, babies had squealed, parents had chatted and children had played, it was bathed in the reverent silence of shock, disbelief and horror.
No-one but neighbours had any reason to walk down Iffley Road, but now – being blocked by squad cars, sealed off by police tape and packed full of forensics – it was bookended by a throng of nosey people and irritating press with eager eyes, loose lips and the selfish flash of cameras, all hoping to snap an exclusive for their tabloid rag or a sick souvenir of their little detour to show-off to their chums.
And although, within the cordon, those same neighbours who just hours before had been too busy with their own lives to aid a desperate father’s cries (“help me, help me”), now their curtains twitched as they impatiently waited to see their home on the telly (“ooh, there’s us, look”) and warmly opened their doors to any hack, hoping to become a pointless platitude on the nightly news, their selfish excitement at minor celebrity to be replaced by the dark realisation that a murderer was in their midst.
Outside of 35 Iffley Road, over the black iron gate, the small brick wall and the tiny garden, through which little Katerina had last walked, stood a blue forensics tent; the dark front door was guarded by officers and the family home swarmed with strangers in black uniforms and white paper suits.
Inside, the flat was untouched, everything was as they had left it that morning; with dishes in the sink, socks on the radiator and crumbs on the breadboard, just everyday items, as well as a calendar marked with days-out, duties and exams, and adorning any spare space were the cherished photos of this perfect little family of four, sweet little snaps of happier times never to return; like holidays, birthdays, Christmases and their former homeland in Macedonia – the country they had fled to be safe.
In her bedroom lay reminders of this timid girl’s tragic life; her teddies on the bed, her idols on the wall and a little keyboard on which she’d dreamed of being a pianist. All scattered among the debris of her last moments alive; her school uniform, her English exam paper, her chair used to wedge the door shut, her daddy’s handprints on her chest as he fought to make his baby breathe, the kitchen knife he had dropped having failed to sever the strap of her much-loved Virgin Airlines bag, it tightened so tight that her last sight was her frantic daddy struggling to cut the suffocating tourniquet which strangled her, and in the centre of all this horror and pain – with her cardigan dishevelled, her white t-shirt bloodied and her tracksuit bottoms all ripped and torn – lay the tiny little body of Katerina.
At 5pm, as the paramedics stood down, the tiny girl was pronounced dead and the family home was declared a crime-scene - although his daughter lay lifeless on her bedroom floor – he wasn’t allowed to hold her, kiss her or cradle her, as she was no longer his baby, now she was evidence.
Later that evening, after her distraught father was led away, a hushed silence fell across Iffley Road, as in a small black bag, her miniscule frame was loaded into a discrete black van, and as the ambulance crept away at a solemn speed, the residents of this quiet little street were left with an unnerving thought that even behind the walls, doors and locks of their own homes, no-one would ever be safe.
A few hours later, in the cells of Shepherd’s Bush Station, the Police already had a prime suspect for the murder of Katerina Koneva… but the man behind bars wasn’t The Beast. (Interstitial).
For the Police, most murders aren’t a mystery…
The most obvious suspect is usually the guilty party. In almost every murder, the suspect is often a friend, a family member, a colleague or a rival of the deceased. In family murders; usually the husband kills the wife, the wife kills the husband, the father kills his daughter or the mother kills her son, but rarely is it the opposite, as most murders feature a strange Oedipal twist. The murderer is usually someone with something to lose or gain (whether money, pride or status), who has a direct connection to the location, who often owns the weapon, who commits the crime in the heat of passion – murders are very rarely premeditated – and the prime suspect is quickly arrested as it’s almost impossible to leave no trace of yourself behind. There’s no conspiracy, no mystery and no very few surprises.
When questioned, Trajce had claimed that Katerina had been attacked in her bedroom by a stranger. But stranger-related murders in your own home are incredibly rare. You don’t kill someone you don’t know, in a place you don’t know, for no reason. So, although this grieving father would blame his daughter’s death on a mystery man that the press would later dub as ‘The Beast’, in these early stages of the investigation, the Police’s prime suspect in the murder of Katerina Koneva was her own daddy.
Of course, it’s easy to sit there and condemn the Police for their decision to suspect an innocent man; having only listened to one episode of a podcast written by a person who wasn’t even there, twenty-three years after the murder and based on the culmination of a six-year police investigation; the details of which (as all podcasts do) have been cherry-picked and condensed into an easily-digestible thirty-minute chunk, so the story appears clear and logical… but the Police didn’t have that luxury.
So, as Trajce stood alone in a Police cell - still shocked by the scenes he had witnessed and traumatised by the guilt that (had he not chased The Beast) he might have saved his baby – dressed in nothing but a white paper suit, taped at his wrists and ankles to preserve any evidence, although he knew he was innocent, to the Police, his story seemed implausible and aspects of this case just didn’t make sense.
If he was innocent why did none of the neighbours see anyone but Trajce and Katerina enter the flat that afternoon? If the culprit was a burglar, how did he get in and why was nothing taken? Why were only his and her fingerprints found inside the room, on the knife and on the red strap used to strangle her? Why did no-one hear her scream but everyone heard him shout? If this was a premeditated murder, why did the killer not bring a weapon? If this was a crime-of-passion, why would a stranger choose to murder a twelve-year-old schoolgirl in her own home? And how would a stranger know that on this particular day, Zaklina would be out, Trajce would be late and Katerina would be alone?
We know he was innocent and the Police would later prove it, but being held in a police cell with his daughter’s blood on his hands, he looked like a guilty man… to his wife Zaklina and their son Christian.
"Zaklina started shouting ‘What have you done?'. She was kicking and screaming at me. All I wanted to do was hug my wife and cry with my family. I had lost my little girl—but my wife was attacking me and my six-year-old son was looking up at me with hate in his eyes. I remember banging my head from wall to wall in my cell, I couldn’t believe what was happening. They thought I had killed my Katerina”.
A thorough Police investigation would exonerate Trajce and prove the presence of a stranger.
The size five boot prints proved the culprit was a short stocky male, matching the man Trajce said he had chased. Finding no other fingerprints inside the bedroom, the Police suspected the culprit had worn gloves, but having removed them to flee this first-floor flat, the attacker had left several sets of short fat fingerprints on the window sill, glass and ledge.
With no obvious signs of a break-in, as the front door initially looked untouched, although burdened by stubby-fingers, the attacker was clearly skilled with locks, highly dextrous and adept as a burglar. Using her strap to suffocate her and her pen to fix the tourniquet, this unique combination of found-items fashioned as a garrotte showed that he was a very calm and confident strangler. And as nothing in the flat was stolen or smashed, he had only one motivation - the violent rape of a young girl.
A day later, although the sight of a man brandishing a knife and the theft of a black Fiat Uno seemed unrelated, seeing the news report on Katerina’s murder, four eye-witnesses came forward and gave a description of ‘The Beast’; he was stocky, five foot six inches tall, with dark receding hair, of Greek or Arabic appearance and as no-one could identify his accent, they simply said he sounded ‘foreign’.
Police had his fingerprints, a vague description, a few grainy frames of CCTV footage and a strand of his short dark hair found on Katerina’s cardigan. But it wasn’t enough. What they didn’t know was who he was, where he was now and why he had targeted Katerina? And as the Police hunted for The Beast, although Trajce was innocent in the eyes of the law, he wasn’t in the eyes of his family…
Once the forensics team had left and the first-floor flat was no longer a crime-scene, as this was still their home, what remained of the Koneva family moved back into 35 Iffley Road. Everything was as they had left it; the dirty dishes, the drying socks and the breadcrumbs, only now their happy home was sullied by a series of cruel reminders; bare squares where carpet once was, black powder prints on white surfaces, a speckling of bloodstains on the bed and the memory of where her little body lay.
The grief of losing their beautiful baby in such a tragic way would prove too much for them all, and as tensions and resentment mounted, the fragments of this little family of three began to implode. "My son told me repeatedly that he hated me. I was so angry, full of rage and guilt, I would argue all the time with my wife. It was small things that would set us off—anything which reminded us of the pain of losing Katerina. I frequently told my wife I hated her. I felt like I had gone mad with grief".
Three years later, Trajce and Zaklina separated, Christian disowned him and being wracked with the guilt at his failure to save his daughter’s life, Trajce attempted suicide several times; "I wanted to die. I was in so much pain from losing Katerina, I thought I deserve this pain and I have to suffer".
And although their grief would never end, sadly the investigation would.
Despite house-to-house enquiries, no-one could identify this 5-foot 6-inch Greek or Arabic male. His unique criminal profile didn’t match any known offenders. His fingerprints and DNA didn’t appear on either the Police or Immigration databases. And even after an extensive inquiry and three separate appeals (in 1997, 2001 and 2004) as well appearances on the BBC's Crimewatch, the trail went cold.
One week after the murder, with no fresh leads, the press moved on. Two months later, Princess Diana was killed in a car-crash and the people forgot that Katerina existed. Two years later, the senior officer in the case was moved onto the high-profile murder of TV presenter Jill Dando – and as investigation stalled, the culprit disappeared and the case went silent…
…but a beast will always be a beast, and with his appetite for young girls never sated, he would go in search of another victim.
On Sunday 22nd September 2002, five years later and four miles west of Shepherd’s Bush, an unnamed South Korean woman - who had arrived in England just three weeks prior - was trawling the adverts in a local newsagent’s window near Ealing Broadway Station, looking for a cheap flat or bedsit to rent.
She was a twenty-one-year-old student, but being blessed with youthful skin, long dark hair, elfin-like features and a slim petite frame, she was often mistaken for a little girl. With her English limited and struggling to decipher the adverts, it was then that a man approached and offered to help; he was mid-to-late forties, short, stocky, dark-haired and Greek or Arabic, with an unplaceable foreign accent.
But he didn’t look like a maniac or a monster, a bastard or a beast, he seemed like a good Samaritan doing a nice deed for as a lady in need. She had no reason to be scared; his eyes were sad, his hands were small and his face was smooth, and although he wore a black wig to hid his disappearing hairline, it wasn’t a disguise, he was just a fastidiously neat little man with starched shirts, pressed trousers and highly-polished shoes, with needles and thread in his bag for his embroidery, and milk and biscuits for his nightly cup of tea. His kindness seemed genuine, his calmness reassuring and his demeanour unthreatening, so when he said he knew of a cheap bedsit nearby, she knew she would be okay.
Hopping on the Central Line and taking the tube one stop east to West Acton, they walked down Noel Road onto Twyford Avenue; a respectable treelined street full of kid’s bikes and family homes, and on this busy residential street, in broad daylight, he calmly led her into his ground-floor flat.
As expected, it was basic; a solitary bed in a single room of a communal flat; there was a kettle, a telly, an ironing board, a rail of neatly pressed shirts, a black bag full of useful tools and photos of his mum. Being a small room, there wasn’t much to see and - after a minute - there was nothing more to say.
She went to leave but he wanted her to stay. As his door wasn’t locked, he’d asked politely and as the other tenants could be heard moving about in the flat above, she assumed she would be safe…
…but (little did she know that) she was alone with The Beast.
Without warning, he attacked; with his full fifteen-stone of bulk bearing down on top of her, he pinned her to the bed and began to stroke her hair, kiss her lips and lick her face. As she squealed, he shushed her. As she struggled, he smothered her. And as she screamed, he began to strangle her, squeezing her neck harder, and – unable to shout, move or even breath – moments later, she passed out.
When she awoke, her hands were bound, her mouth was gagged and over the next three hours, The Beast subjected his tiny little sex-toy to a truly horrifying ordeal, as she was repeatedly choked and raped, choked and raped, choked and raped, taking his semi-conscious victim to the brink of death each and every time he violated her, until he was done. And then, as if nothing had happened, he kissed her, cuddled her and - only after she said she loved him and promised to call him the very next day - he let her go.
Obviously, she didn’t call him back…
…instead, she went straight to the Police, and giving them his name, his address, his description and his mobile phone number, The Beast was arrested that very same day and charged with sexual assault, false imprisonment and multiple counts of rape. Tried at The Old Bailey, in his defence, he arrogantly claimed that the sex was consensual, a thank you for helping find her a bedsit. But following her brave testimony, a unanimous jury found him guilty and he was sentenced to nine years in prison.
Nobody knew this, but The Beast was finally behind bars, and without this vicious attack, he may never have been found. Having entered the UK illegally, he knew how to stay under the radar; he went under a false name, he used fake papers, his bedsit was by verbal agreement, he worked for cash-in-hand as a tailor in a West London dry-cleaners and his only criminal conviction in the UK was for petty theft.
They didn’t know it but Police had been looking for him for five years, but the witness descriptions of him were wrong; he wasn’t five foot six, he was five foot three, he wasn’t mid-to-late forties but forty-one, and he wasn’t Greek or Arabic. In fact, the ‘foreign’ accent the witnesses described was Polish.
His name was Andrzej Kunowski; to them, he was a nothing, a nobody, a one-time opportunist.
But being a recently convicted criminal and a registered sex-offender, his details, DNA and fingerprints were uploaded onto the National Police Database, the DNA Database, the UK Immigration Service and Interpol, and they proved to be an exact match to a cold case. The soles of his size five boots were unique, the swirls of his fingerprints were perfect, and - although his hair that day had been neatly trimmed - a single miniscule strand of his short dark hair had become trapped between the weave of Katerina’s cardigan, as she was strangled and raped in her own home.
On 29th July 2003, Andrzej Kunowski was charged with the murder of Katerina Koneva. In March 2004, he was tried at the Old Bailey, and although he claimed this was a case of mistaken identity – using the eye-witnesses description of the killer as being taller, older and Greek or Arabic – his fingerprints, his DNA and the testimony of the Korean student were irrefutable, and based only on the evidence presented before them, a jury of eight men and four women took just three hours to find him guilty.
Passing sentence, Judge Beaumont declared “you took the life of a child who was beginning to enjoy what this country had to offer. It was a life of great promise and you ended it with great violence and terror”. Andrzej Kunowski was given a whole life tariff, meaning he would never be released. (End)
Having collapsed in court at hearing the horrifying injuries inflicted on her daughter’s body, Katerina’s mother Zaklina said “I hope this evil murderer burns in hell. Knowing he is in prison is not enough. I hope he suffers every minute of the rest of his life”, her one consolation being that this sadistic rapist and paedophile could never attack a little girl ever again. And although Trajce would state that they had “beaten the devil” and this conviction would help heal the rift between husband and wife, it was a hollow victory; their daughter was dead, the family were split, and all they had of their beautiful little daughter was photos, memories, a gravestone, and the dreams of what she could have been.
Had Katerina lived, she would be thirty-five years-old; maybe married, with two kids, a nice home, and a successful career as a teacher or pianist, and spending her spare-time travelling the world and filling her much-cherished Virgin Airlines bag with souvenirs, perhaps – one day – she may have returned to her now-peaceful homeland in Macedonia - the place her family had fled to ensure she was safe…
…but instead she was buried in a small grave in Mortlake Cemetery.
With the Beast in prison, the case was over, and the investigation was finally closed. But to ensure a fair trial, one piece of evidence had been deliberately withheld from the jury – his criminal record. And what began as a DNA link to a hauntingly similar attack, unearthed a story of the systemic failure of the authorities in Britain and Poland, which let a sexual predator, a sadistic paedophile and “one of the most prolific and dangerous sex-offenders ever” attack again and again and again.
OUTRO: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for listening to Murder Mile.
Part Three 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 thank you to my new Patreon supporters who are Dan Jackson, Victoria Norris and Jillian Payne Johnson, I thank you and I hope you enjoyed your goodies. And as always, thank you to everyone who listens to Murder Mile and shares it with their friends.
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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