A debt-ridden man has been found guilty of murdering the part-time personal assistant of an alleged Russian organised crime boss.
Armen Aristakesyan, 43, had debts of more than £100,000 when he learned that Serafima Meshaka, known as Sima, kept large quantities of cash at her home.
In September 2019, he bludgeoned her to death, leaving the 58-year-old lying in a pool of blood at her flat in Ealing, west London.
Investigators recovered recorded calls from Aristakesyan’s phone showing how he had plotted to get her cash to pay off his debts.
He was caught on CCTV visiting her flat on the evening of September 17 2019, and leaving carrying a bulging shopping bag.
Alexandra Healy QC, prosecuting, said: “Whether the defendant killed Sima before stealing her money or whether she caught him stealing her money and then killed her may never be known.
“What is clear, however, is that he killed her and he left her flat with a substantial quantity of cash.
“Aristakesyan decided that Sima should pay the ultimate price so that he could save himself from the situation he had got himself into.”
Ms Meshaka was discovered the following day lying face down in the shower, with injuries to the back of her head.
Aristakesyan, who is originally from Armenia, admitted owing her thousands of pounds but denied killing her, saying he had visited that day to ask for a loan.
He claimed he left her alive at the flat and the bag he was carrying contained old clothes for a charity shop.
The court heard how Ms Meshaka had amassed a large amount cash at her home said to be around £100,000.
She was the unofficial personal assistant to an alleged crime boss, Aleksander Angert, from Knightsbridge, in west London, who paid her £2,000 a month, jurors were told.
Mr Angert, also known as King or Angel, had been named in a Home Office report as an “organised crime boss” and arms dealer from Odessa.
Ms Meshaka, who trained as a medical doctor in Moscow, had access to family bank accounts so she could order food and take care of household bills and appointments, jurors heard.
The court was also read an extract from a report prepared for the Home Office giving guidance regarding organised crime in the Ukraine.
It quoted a report from the 2015 Organised Crime Observatory dealing with weapons trading between 1992 and 1998.
It stated: “One major node along illicit weapons trafficking routes has traditionally been the port of Odessa, out of which notorious arms trader Leonid Minin operated in the 1990s, in concert with Odessa organised crime boss Aleksandr Angert (criminal nickname ‘Angel’) to deliver weapons to Charles Taylor in Liberia, the RUF (Revolutionary United Front), and others.”
The court heard how the victim was also paid in cash for her work as guardian to Russian children going to school and university in the UK.
And she had a “rich collection” of expensive jewellery inherited from her late sister, according to her friend Nina Koltashova.
While supporting her parents in Russia, Ms Koltashova had told jurors that the victim’s lifestyle was “very frugal”.
Her interests included watching films, reading and the ballet.
Following her death, police found 30,000 euro and £10,000 at her flat.
Aristakesyan, of Uxbridge Road, West Ealing, was found guilty by an Old Bailey jury on Wednesday.