A 20-year-old man has been charged with the murder of a mother-of-two who is thought to have been attacked after leaving a hospital.

The body of 45-year-old Maria Rawlings was found in bushes in Little Heath, Romford, on May 4.

Police believe she was attacked after leaving the King George Hospital in Goodmayes, Ilford, the previous evening, walking to Barley Lane in the direction of the A12.

Responding to the killing, Cllr Jas Athwal, leader of Redbridge Council, said: “We are shocked and saddened by this heinous attack and are working closely with the police to provide support. I want to reassure residents that no stone will be left unturned in tracking down the culprit and bringing them to justice.

“Our thoughts and prayers go to Maria’s friends and family at this terrible time. I would urge anyone who has any information which may help the police with their investigation to please come forward.

"The police have already increased their presence on our streets, and as a council, we stand ready to help them in any way we can to catch the perpetrator.

A post-mortem examination found that Ms Rawlings had been strangled and had suffered head injuries.

Valentin Lazar from Barking was charged with murder on Monday evening and is due to appear in custody at Barkingside Magistrates’ Court today (Tuesday, May 11).

Detective Chief Inspector David Hillier, who is leading the murder investigation, said: “My thoughts remain with Maria’s family at this incredibly difficult time.”

Anyone with information can contact the incident room on 020 8345 3865 or by calling 101 or tweeting @MetCC, and quoting the reference CAD3551/4May.

For more breaking news, local headlines and features, ‘like’ our Facebook page.

We also have a Twitter account: @EppingFGuardian

Follow us to keep up-to-date with news in Epping Forest.