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Man jailed for murdering woman sleeping on steps of an east London church

|News, Violent crime

A killer who brutally attacked a homeless woman as she slept on the stairs of a church has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 18 years.
 
Keiran Rifat, 22, murdered 42-year-old Kelly Stewart outside Memorial Church in Plaistow in the early hours of 26 March last year.
 
He fatally attacked Miss Stewart firstly with a rock, before repeatedly stamping on her head and body. He then dragged her through an alleyway to the back of the church where he assaulted her further with a gas cannister. 
 
Today (Thursday, 4 February 2021) Rifat was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 18 years at the Old Bailey having previously pleaded guilty to murder.
 
Miss Stewart was well known to the staff and volunteers who worked at the Barking Memorial Church where she attended drop-in sessions for homeless people provided by the Bridges Project. She would regularly use the steps of the Memorial Church as a place to sleep.
 
Police were alerted to the attack when a Pastor attending the church the next morning noticed scattered clothing and a blood trail at the front of the building. Officers attended the scene and found Miss Stewart’s lifeless body hidden beneath a pile of cardboard and metal sheeting.  It was later established that Miss Stewart had died from severe head injuries.
 
Rifat was under the influence of cocaine when he was arrested by police officers on 1 April.
 
Bridget Fitzpatrick from the CPS said: “This was an unprovoked, vicious attack on a woman in the most vulnerable of positions.
 
“Kelly Stewart had been described by those who knew her as ‘gentle’ and ‘unassuming’. She had chosen the steps of Barking Memorial Church as a sanctuary, and in the hope that it would offer her some protection. For reasons only known to Keiran Rifat, he chose to subject his victim to the most vicious of assault which tragically resulted in her death.
 
“The strong prosecution case included CCTV footage of the violent attack, which allowed police to go on to identify Rifat as the killer, leaving him with little choice but to admit his guilt.
 
“Although nothing can bring Miss Steward back, I hope this prosecution goes some way in comforting those who knew and cared for her.

Notes to editors

  • Kieran Rifat (DOB: 9/6/1998) is from Plaistow in the London borough of Newham.
  •  Bridget Fitzpatrick is a Senior Crown Prosecutor within the pan-London Homicide unit at CPS London North.

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