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Man jailed for life over murder of Limerick pensioner Rose Hanrahan

Alexandru Iordache had pleaded guilty to the murder of the elderly woman, whose family described her as like a fairy godmother.

Rose Hanrahan
Rose Hanrahan
Image: An Garda Síochána

Updated Jul 5th 2021, 4:00 PM

A 47-YEAR-OLD man has been jailed for life for the murder of an elderly Limerick woman, whom he targeted in the supermarket, followed and later strangled in her home.

The father-of-two had ‘shoulder surfed’ 78-year-old Rose ‘Rosie’ Hanrahan, while the widow paid for groceries in December 2017, the day after he had arrived in Ireland.

Alexandru Iordache left the country again a week later, but was tracked down through DNA he left behind.

The Romanian, with a previous address at Dreptatti Street, Bucharest, had pleaded guilty to her murder on or about 14 to 15 December 2017, at New Road, Thomondgate, Limerick City.

He received the mandatory life sentence at the Central Criminal Court today for murdering the woman, described by her family as being like a ‘fairy godmother’.

Detective Garda Enda Haugh told the sentence hearing that Hanrahan had lived alone, her husband having died a number of years earlier.

He told Ann-Marie Lawlor SC, prosecuting, that the large number of people in the courtroom were her family and friends from Thomandgate.

“She was well-known, well loved, and had a huge amount of connections with the community,” he said. “She was described by her neighbours as a lady you could rely on.”

The detective explained that this was the largest murder investigation undertaken in Henry Street in a generation.

Statement outside the court

Speaking outside the Central Criminal Court on behalf of the family, Rose Hanrahan’s niece Avril Kenny said that it was down to the “impeccable” work of Limerick gardaí that Rose’s murderer is now serving a life sentence.

“It’s been an extremely difficult three and a half years for her family and friends, waiting for the person responsible for her death to be held accountable,” she said.

Alexandru Iordache targeted a vulnerable, elderly widow, with no ability to defend herself. His sentencing today doesn’t give us any reprieve from the pain and sorrow he caused, but it is at least a relief to know that he will never be able to hurt anyone again.

“It is down to the impeccable work performed by the Limerick gardaí that Alexandru Iordache is now serving a life sentence,” said Kenny.

“The extensive work carried out by the investigating team ensured that no stone was left unturned and every aspect of this case was performed meticulously.”

She said that the family was extremely grateful to all involved in the case for their dedication and expertise – particularly the lead Gardaí involved in the case.

“They demonstrated an immense amount of compassion, kindness and understanding throughout the investigation and legal proceedings,” she said.

“They assured that we were constantly updated on developments. Their reassurance and support got us through many tough times with the confidence that this day would come. We will be forever grateful to them all.”

The family also thanked the prosecution team, including Senior Counsel Anne-Marie Lawlor and State solicitor Catherine Fanning. The community of Thomandgate and the wider Limerick community were also thanked by Rose’s family.

Superintendent Dermot O’Connor also spoke outside the court, and thanked the Limerick community as well as various police agencies – including the police forces of Romania and the United Kingdom in particular.

“All played a crucial role in solving this crime,” he said.

No connection to the community

Detective Haugh had told the court earlier that Hanrahan had been found dead by her sister and sister’s family.

“She couldn’t get access and, when she got access, she could see she was tied and deceased,” Haugh said.

Blood could also be seen and it was obvious the house had been ransacked.

Gardaí found that Hanrahan’s legs had been bound, and the investigation showed that she had died as a result of ligature strangulation.

“A curtain cord had been tightly applied around her neck,” explained the detective.

Hanrahan had also received blows to her head and face. Injuries to her fingers were indicative of her trying to release herself from the ligature, he added.

There were thousands of door-to-door inquiries and questionnaires, but Iordache had no ties to the community.

“He flitted in and out to commit offences,” remarked Lawlor.

One hundred thousand hours of CCTV were examined and this proved instrumental in terms of identifying her killer.

Footage from the Tesco in Coonagh on 13 December showed someone looking over Hanrahan’s shoulder as she inputted her pin while using her bank card to pay the cashier.

More CCTV showed that this person then followed her home. His car was seen in the vicinity of her home again on 14 December, and didn’t leave until after 11am on 15 December. Her family found her body at 1.15pm and it is not known when he committed the murder.

DNA evidence

As well as the CCTV evidence, the killer had also left behind DNA, which was found during the crime scene analysis.

Hanrahan’s home was very secure; she used external doors internally for security. However, a rear window had been broken to gain entry, and blood was found on the window frame and on the ligature used to kill her.

DNA was extracted from this blood and sent to a number of countries inside and outside the EU. Investigating gardai engaged with French, UK, Swiss and Romanian authorities, which led to them identifying Iordache as the source of the DNA.

Gardaí learned that he had travelled to Ireland on 12 December and was here until the 21 December. In that time, he was suspected of other opportunistic thefts of elderly people, including another on 14 December also in Tesco, Coonagh.

Investigators travelled to Romania, where he had returned, and two more DNA samples were attained.

He was interviewed by police there and it was put to him that he had been in Hanrahan’s home and committed the killing. He denied it, and couldn’t explain why his blood sample was left behind.

Gardaí also tracked his movements while he was in Ireland. The car he used was found on 27 December in Rosslare, from where he had left. DNA samples from the car matched those found at the scene and his own DNA sample taken in Romania.

The detective said that Iordache had 29 previous convictions, including eight from Ireland. All related to theft.

Some of his convictions bore similarities to the first part of his crime against Hanrahan.

“In February 2017, in Supervalu in Cavan, an elderly female was ‘shoulder surfed’ at the checkout, her card was taken and money was taken,” he said.

A month later, he engaged in a similar modus operandi in Dunnes Stores in Ennis.

He also had convictions from the UK, France and Romania. All related to theft and robbery, and he received sentences of up to eight years in prison.

Ioradache was extradited from Sussex in England in January 2020. His trial was due to commence this month, but he entered his plea a number of weeks ago.

“Sorry for what I did,” he said at the time. He did not speak today.

Victim impact statement

Hanrahan’s niece, Avril Kenny, entered the witness box and read a victim impact statement on behalf of her family.

She said that anyone lucky enough to know her aunt knew her as being a most compassionate person.

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“She was described as being like a fairy godmother,” she said. “She went out of her way to make people happy.”

Kenny said that her aunt had loved children, to whom she was generous, not just in the gifts she gave.

“She always saw something special in people and encouraged us,” she said of the deceased’s nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews.

“She was always a positive influence on us all. We loved her like a second mother,” she explained.

She had also been a loving wife, she recalled.

Kenny said that her aunt had enjoyed the simple things and was religious, going to Mass every Saturday evening.

She loved her home, pottering around her garden, going to the shops and listening to classical music.

Most of all, she loved being surrounded by family and friends, she said.

Kenny described the deceased as an amazing, kind and loving sister, ‘my mother’s best friend’.

“To see the effect of Rosie’s loss on my Mum has been heartbreaking,” she said. “It has extinguished a light in her.”

It was this sister, who had found her dead, as she and younger family members called in on their way to see Santa that day.

Kenny described the grief, fear, anxiety stress and worry that the family experienced due to the manner of her death.

“We are all left tormented with questions. It has changed who we are,” she said. “The senseless murder instilled a sense of fear across the community among the elderly.”

Kenny said that, although her aunt was a strong, independent person, she was also a 78-year-old widow, alone and vulnerable. The thoughts of how scared she must have been had haunted them.

“After 78 years of kindness to everyone, she deserved a peaceful death,” she said. “She will remain in our hearts forever.”

Iordache’s barrister, Seamus Clarke, said that any words expressed on behalf of his client would ring hollow.

He noted that a plea of guilty to murder was unusual.

Justice Michael White said that it was the duty of the court to impose the mandatory life sentence.

“This was a horrific and needless crime perpetrated on a vulnerable and kind lady, who lived a very rich life,” he said. “She was ruthlessly targeted and shown no mercy.”

He expressed his deepest sympathy to her family and friends.

“I know that she will be remembered at a better time than today,” he said.

Iordache’s life sentence was backdated to 16 January 2020, the date he was extradited to Ireland.

Comment are closed as legal proceedings are ongoing.

About the author:

Natasha Reid

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