Case: Romford murder: Rosina Coleman
Rosina Coleman
Paul Prause
Status: Solved
Categories: Robbery
Case synopsis:

Rosina Coleman, 85, was bludgeoned to death by a handyman working at her home in Romford.

The killer dialled 999 from the bungalow in Ashmour Gardens at 11.31am on 15 May 2018 and pretended he had found her lying injured on the bedroom floor.

Ms Coleman, who had five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, was pronounced dead at the scene. A post-mortem confirmed the cause of death as blunt force trauma to the head and neck.

On 18 May handyman Paul Prause, 65 (23.02.53), of Romford, Havering, was arrested. He was charged with murder on 21 May.

He pleaded guilty to murder when he appeared at the Old Bailey on 16 November 2018. Prause was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 22 years before parole.

The prosecution suggested Prause had planned to steal jewellery and killed Ms Coleman when she confronted him at her home. He then staged the scene to look like a burglary.

He called for an ambulance from the house and told the operator a woman had been assaulted, there was blood everywhere and she was not breathing.

Police arrived to find the bedroom had been ransacked, with items piled up on the bed and the drawers pulled out. A suitcase was lying open on the floor next to the victim.

There was no sign of forced entry but the rear patio doors were open.

Prause told officers he had known the victim for more than five years and did odd jobs for her every fortnight. He had gone round on 15 May to cut down a tree and put up a curtain pole in the conservatory.

He claimed he arrived at the bungalow around 8.30am and got no answer, so returned at 10.30am and used a key to enter the side door.

The investigation revealed Prause had been fixing a washing machine in Chadwell Heath between 8.30am and 9am.

CCTV cameras captured him visiting a DIY store in Romford at 9.05am to buy a packet of latex gloves. 

Prause's car was then caught on camera in Ashmour Gardens at 9.12am, then again between 9.23am and 11am, and for the third time just before he called for an ambulance. On the final occasion he had changed his clothing.

A bloodstained piece of latex glove was found caught in the door handle of a wardrobe in Rose's bedroom. Two DNA profiles on the latex were matched to the victim and Prause.

When he was arrested Prause initially claimed he had got muddled up with his timings before admitting that he hit her several times with a hammer in anger after she made a jokey comment about him needing to grow up.

Prause confessed that he stole a small amount of money and some jewellery and staged the bedroom to look like a burglary before throwing the hammer, his clothing and some jewellery he believed was worthless into the River Rom. His clothing and the murder weapon were later recovered.

He also admitted hiding a diamond ring worth £7,000 in his shed.

The court heard Prause was a regular gambler at casinos and was in debt at the time of the murder.

Judge Philip Katz told him: 'Mrs Coleman lived a full and independent life supported by a large and loving family.

'The attack with the hammer was brutal and sustained for long enough that she sustained defensive injuries.

'She was a vulnerable, standing at just 4'11" tall. Her terror can only be imaginable.

'Some of her family had their doubts about you but Rosina Coleman trusted you and let you have a key to her home. This was a hideous breach of trust.'

Detective Chief Inspector Paul Considine, from the Homicide and Major Crime Command, said: "Rosina, known to her friends and family as Rose, was the victim of a despicable and ruthless murder by someone she trusted to enter her home to carry out work.

"Prause pretended he had just come across this terrible crime when in reality he was Rose's attacker. He lied to officers until the evidence caught him out and he was forced to admit he had hit her repeatedly with a hammer.

"In interview he said he became angry after she made a jokey comment to him but the police investigation and the prosecution maintain that his motive that day was to steal Rose's precious jewellery and when she confronted him he murdered her.

"Rose has been described to my investigation team as a well-respected and independent lady who liked gardening and making dresses and attended the Royal British Legion club on Saturday nights. Our deepest sympathies go out to her family who continue to deal with this tragic loss. We hope this sentence provides some closure for Rose's relatives and friends and Paul Prause has plenty of time to think about his actions in prison where he belongs."

In extracts from an impact statement, Rose’s daughter Sharon Thomas said: "Where do I start? There has not been a part of my life that has not been not only touched but almost devastated by the most violent death of my mum. This would not have been the same if mum had died from natural causes, a heart attack. I know that because my dad died instantly. That was hard but you go through a process one step at a time as you get over each hurdle; you say they had a good life, they were great people, you take great comfort that they didn’t have a long, painful, lingering death.

"Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t just go away but you get used to it - you never stop missing them but you get used to it, you made peace with it and with the passage of time you move on.

"But what happened to Mum you just can’t understand, why, how, why, why? Because I was the last person to talk to Mum on the phone, I have this terrible feeling of guilt. First because I was the last person to talk to her and maybe if we had carried on talking we would still have been on the phone talking when he arrived and the whole situation would’ve been different and Mum would still be here. How I wish that was possible. Also guilt around the fact that I should have kept her safe for my lovely dad, I failed; that hurts so bad.

"When Mum first met Paul and employed him on recommendation from her friend, we all had our doubts about him but she said, ‘no he is ok’. I always believed that mum was a good judge of character, how wrong were we.

"There is not a part of my life this has not affected, from my relationships, how I trust people and even the way I wonder what people think about. You think you know people, not just strangers, but family, friends, people you have known forever, you look at them with suspicion. I always have what has happened in my mind; I really feel I am living someone else’s life.

"There is no end to this horrible feeling, how can I explain how this feels? Complete and utter devastation, panic, doom, devastation…

"…I am one of those people who is loud and opinionated without opening my mouth; I can’t even keep that up at the moment, the fight is gone. I get asked regularly, ‘are you ok?’ I just reply, ’yes, I’m fine’ but I lie - I am never going to be that again. I struggle with coherent thoughts, everything gets mixed up and muddled appointments missed, I have to write everything down, make lists, I have never been like this before. There is a massive hole in my life, my heart, my mind, my home, that is never going to be filled again.

"I go along approaching normal - I see something come on the TV and I think I will phone Mum and tell her. I have even picked up the phone and dialled the number. I landed up in a blubbering heap on the floor; not only she wasn’t there but the number has gone.

"There was so much more to my mum then a frail old dotty 85-year-old lady. My mum was elegant, beautiful of mind and body, she was full of fun, she had an answer for most problems, she loved people… I could go on and on with this…why, why, why?"

Rose’s son Robert said: "If I had to describe my mother I would describe her as someone who was strong and independent. My mum was a very kind and caring person who touched everyone who came into contact with her. Her friends miss her dearly at her local legion club; she was the life and soul of the club and always helped others.

"My mother and father were married for over 50 years and I was the eldest child and eight years later along came my sister. My mother was a doting grandmother and great-grandmother to her five grandchildren and eight great grandchildren; she enjoyed spending time with her family. She enjoyed going shopping and spoiling her family as much as she could. Telling the little children that their Nanny Rose had gone to heaven was very difficult and emotional for us as a family. We only worry that as they get older they’ll realise the full extent of what has occurred to their dear nanny.

"It was lunchtime on Tuesday 15th May, when two police officers knocked on our door to give us the devastating news that my mum had been murdered. I was speechless, numb and in complete shock. I could not believe what the police officers were telling me; it did not seem real. Since that moment our lives have changed forever; we no longer have our dear mother in our lives as she has been taken so cruelly from someone she trusted.

"Our mum let someone she trusted into her home and he became like a family member to her over the years. This is what makes this so hard to understand and why as a family we question if there is anything we could have done?

"Since my mum’s passing we have had to adapt to our new way of living. We have had to deal with the police on a regular basis and other support agencies assisting us through our journey. This is not normal for us and is something we are still coming to terms with. It’s like everyone says, you read this in the paper but it doesn’t happen to your family. One of the worse things we have had to deal with is the invasion of our privacy; this has been hard as a family to cope with. We have felt like we have been in the unknown and have felt we have been in limbo. We didn’t know what we could do next as the process is lengthy and due to this we have been unable to grieve normally.

"It has affected our family emotionally and physically; since my mum passed away I have suffered ill-health and subsequently suffered a heart attack where I had to spend some time in hospital. I believe that the stress caused by my mum’s murder has contributed towards the decline in my physical health.

"One of the best stories I have of my mum is when she went to see a show with my wife and daughter in London. My wife explained that both her and my daughter went to the bathroom and when they came back, my mum was locked in a conversation with a gentleman who asked her out for dinner. This made our family laugh and is a memory we will treasure forever. This shows how friendly and funny she was that even a stranger would ask her out for dinner.

"As a family we hope that justice is served and that the offender is given a substantial sentence and therefore not allowed to hurt and destroy another family. We won’t allow this to destroy the memories we hold dear of our lovely mother, nan and great nan. "

Rose’s granddaughter Samantha Green said: "Where do I start, I’ve cried every day!

"My Nan was taken away from us far too soon, she was the healthiest one of our family, the soul of the party and had a better social life than us all. Knowing that she is not here anymore is heart-breaking. Then to find out she has been murdered and unbelievably murdered by someone she knew and trusted! I’m never going to come to terms with it.

"Nan was always there for us, encouraging me to always do my best and get what I want out of life, to stand for what you believe in. She was always there to listen to me and have a great debate on a new topic, especially with my husband. Always spoiling our girls and giving them too much ice-cream and sweets after school, making them princess dresses and mermaid tails, anything they wanted.

"Grieving for my nan is hard but knowing the way it happened and not knowing what she must have been feeling and how scared she must have been... I have nightmares nearly every night, seeing her face and having the images burnt in my head of what looked hardly nothing like her, when having to identify her in the mortuary with my brother. Going over and over again, thinking if there was something I could have done.

"No words can express how I feel and what myself and my family are going through at this present time."

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