I would like to dedicate this week’s column to celebrating some excellent detective work which has made our streets safer by putting two dangerous sexual predators behind bars.

Stranger attacks are, thankfully, rare, but for that fact they are even more terrifying for victims and the wider public when they do occur.

On Friday (Aug 11) Cosmin-Nicolae Vasioiu was sentenced to 18 years in prison for a rape he carried out in June last year. Vasioiu had followed his victim into the Exeter catacombs where he carried out the assault. He then made matters worse by denying the crime after police arrested and charged him.

Thankfully a jury saw through his lies, he was found guilty and jailed. Hard work by police officers, combined with evidence from Exeter’s CCTV network, made a watertight case. I have invested in CCTV networks in numerous locations across Devon and Cornwall and am delighted when cases like this demonstrate its value.

In a separate case Nicholas Ashby, from Sowden Park, Barnstaple, was sentenced at Exeter Crown Court recently for one count of sexual assault and one count of attempted rape.

The 41-year-old had pleaded guilty in May to both the sexual assault of a woman in Barnstaple in September 2022 and the attempted rape of another woman in the town a month later. One of his brave victims was in court to see Ashby sentenced to a total of 11 years and eight months in prison.

Piecing together the victims' descriptions of their attacker, detectives had identified their suspect was most likely driving a Mercedes AMG or sport model.

Without a registration number, they traced the owners of all these cars between Barnstaple and Exeter and asked all those that fitted the description of their suspect for DNA.

Ashby was one of those - and lived within a four-minute drive from where the attacks happened.

Both these cases highlight the fact that our force will invest significant effort and resources in investigating heinous crimes like sexual assault. 

Our public stand in solidarity with the brave victims who gave evidence to police and who endured weeks of uncertainty before these cases came to court, and to the detectives whose hard work ensured that these dangerous men will remain behind bars for years to come. The victims' courage, in particular, means that today other women in our communities are safer. 

If you have been a victim of a sexual assault, practical and emotional help and support is available, free at the point of delivery, whether or not you have reported an incident to police. Information on how to access this help is available online at https://victimcare-dc.org.