Six months prison for spitting at key workers during Covid-19 lockdown, traced by Wembley bus driver who took DNA swab

A homeless drunk has been jailed after a string of spitting assaults on a policeman, bus driver and hotel worker.

Nicolae-Raul Cozacu, 43, drunkenly spat at Wembley Holiday Inn workers on March 23 before spitting on a police officer tasked with taking him to hospital following his arrest.

A bus driver, who had been spat at for not letting a passenger off at a designated stop, took a ‘spit kit’ swab of the fluid to the police.

Unemployed father-of-four Cozacu’s DNA was then matched to that bus spitting incident which occurred on April 8.

The Romanian national admitted the offences today, appearing at Willesden Magistrates’ Court via video link from Wembley police station wearing a blue pullover with greying hair.

He said: ‘I am guilty for spitting at him, not for attacking him, I don’t know what that means, my hands were behind my back, I only spat at him.’

Jailing Cozacu for 26 weeks and ordering him to pay compensation District Judge Denis Brennan called the behaviour ‘despicable’.

Prosecutor Neehal Patel said: ‘Mr Cozacu was initially seen urinating against the Holiday Inn, two members of staff asked him to move along, but they later found him in the living area.

‘So they had to escort Mr Cozacu out of the building, he was shouting and making threats towards the staff, saying “don’t push me I will kill you”. 

‘Mr Kastrati felt threatened and pushed Mr Cosacu away, another colleague came to assist, that’s Mr Chiriac, and it’s during this tussle that Mr Cozacu has spat twice in Mr Kastrati’s face.

‘In relation to the police officer, Mr Cosacu was being taken to Northwick Park Hospital and whilst being transferred to a hospital bed he became increasingly aggressive and spat in the face of PC Sharifi.’

PC Sharifi wrote in a victim impact statement: ‘This has left me worried that I could potentially have caught a disease from someone doing my job.

‘I was scared that I could possibly go home to my family with a possibly unknown disease, I have a young child. 

‘This has made me feel vulnerable. I am aware of saliva transmitted diseases which has left me worried and anxious.’

Cozacu, traced by his DNA, admitted spitting at a 297 bus driver in Wembley on 8 April because he wanted to get off.

Ms Patel said: ‘The driver didn’t stop at a bus stop because nobody had pressed the bell, then between two stops he shouted at the driver saying “drop me here this is good for me” .

‘He became very angry towards the driver, and in an aggressive manner said “why didn’t you drop me back there?” and started making insulting comments about the driver’s mother. 

‘The driver activated code red, then Mr Cozacu spat towards the front of the bus. 

‘Spit landed on the bottom section of the driver’s cab, Mr Cozacu walked away and the driver used his spit kit to take a swab from the spittle.’

The court heard Cozacu has a conviction for committing a similar offence in December 2019. 

District Judge Brannan said: ‘You have no money, you are a beggar, as you admitted yesterday before me. 

‘Each of those individuals should receive compensation, but realistically you wouldn’t be able to pay it.

‘By the time you are released from prison you may well have the money to pay by being gainfully employed.

‘Sentencing you today on the basis of you lack of income I order that you pay each of those, Mr Kastrati and Mr Sharifi, £200 in compensation.

‘I give you six months to pay that and a collection order so you will go to prison if you don’t pay.

‘Again despicable as that was, for the spitting at the bus driver who was doing his job correctly in refusing to let you off the bus – not at the bus stop – and verbally abusing him as well, all I can do is fine you.

‘In my view you have been undercharged in relation to that offence.’

James O‘Donnell, defending, said: ‘Probably the only mitigation I can advance is that he should be given full credit for his guilty pleas.

‘He tells me that he attended Holiday Inn and was looking for cigarette butts in the car park, the members of staff became aggressive and asked him to leave.

‘He says at one point that he was pushed to the floor and a bottle of vodka in his pocket smashed.

‘He accepted that he spat at Mr Kastrati, but could not recall whether he spat at PC Sharifi.

‘When arrested and interviewed he made full and frank admissions saying that he was annoyed at the bus driver about where he wanted to get off. 

‘He tells me that he has come to the UK to work, up until September he worked in Camden, selling souvenirs, but lost his job and now works in construction when he can, cash in hand, earning about £50 or £60 per day. 

Cozacu, 43, of no fixed abode, admitted using threatening behaviour likely to cause harassment and alarm of distress against Nik Kastrati and his colleague Florentina Chiriac, assault by beating for spitting at Mr Kastrati and common assault for spitting in PC Shaharm Sharifi’s eye.

He was sentenced to six months imprisonment, considered for release within three months, and ordered to pay £200 compensation to both Mr Kastrati and PC Sharifi as well as £100 in compensation to the bus driver, with no prosecution costs or victim surcharge. 

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