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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 March, 2004, 18:36 GMT 19:36 UK
Katerina: A father's tale
Trajce Koneva
Trajce Koneva found Katerina dying in their home
It has been nearly seven years since 12-year-old Katerina Koneva was murdered in her own home by a paedophile.

Andrezej Kunowski, an illegal immigrant from Poland, was on the run from another sex crime when he strangled the girl to death after she came home from school one afternoon.

For Katerina's father Trajce it has been seven long years of desperation.

His daughter's killer was finally brought to justice after forensic evidence obtained by the Metropolitan Police matched DNA material found at a similar crime Kunowski was alleged to have committed in Warsaw.

The Koneva family moved from the Balkans to Britain two years before Katerina's death.

In the cruellest of ironies, they moved to west London in search of sanctuary from ethnic violence in their native Macedonia.

Something wrong

Trajce's nightmare began on 22 May 1997 when he returned home to the family flat in Hammersmith.

Andrezej Kunowski
Kunowski murdered Katerina after she came home from school

He had been studying English at a local college as a mature student and was delayed getting home because of an exam, while Katerina's mother Zaklina had been out with a friend.

Trajce knew something was wrong when he could not open the front door which was barricaded with a chair.

Although he saw his daughter's bag in a room, he also saw a pair of men's black shoes.

He told the Old Bailey during Kunowski's trial: "It was the very first time our daughter was alone. I expected everything to be all right.

"I started like mad kicking it [the door] with all my body. I was trying just to get in, because my brain was saying I knew something was wrong."

"I was desperate to get in because my feelings were bad. I was so scared. I thought that maybe if someone is inside and she cannot get to the door, he must get to the window and jump, so I ran downstairs," he said.

I started to cry and call her name - Katerina, Katerina. A policeman and I tried to resuscitate her
Trajce Koneva

In a neighbour's garden Trajce came face to face with killer Kunowski and it was the stare the serial rapist gave that will stay with him forever.

"I just asked what he was doing in my house. He just looked at me and ran away. I went after him.

"It's difficult to put into words, but I remember the way the man looked at me. He was so cool. He just looked at me and ran away," he said.

Great Promise

What Trajce did not know when he instinctively decided to chase Kunowski in a desperate attempt to catch him, was that his daughter was dying in a room in the family flat.

Kunowski caught on camera
Kunowski was chased from the Koneva's family flat

After losing his daughter's killer he returned home, forced the door open and found Katerina lying dead with a cord tied tightly round her neck.

The bright, quiet 12-year-old who had been doing well at the local Holland Park school, was raped and strangled during a three hour period.

Trajce broke down in court when he described how he tried to save his daughter's life by cutting the cord that was round her neck.

He told the Old Bailey: "I tried to release it. It was too tight. I could not get it. I went to the kitchen to take something.

"I took a knife - I cut it. I started to cry and call her name - Katerina, Katerina. A policeman and I tried to resuscitate her."

At the Old Bailey Judge Peter Beaumont called Katerina "a child of great promise".

He sentenced Kunowski to life imprisonment, recommending that the 48-year-old should not be released.

Rapist murdered girl in her home
31 Mar 04  |  London
Polish link solves girl's murder
31 Mar 04  |  London

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