THE detective leading the inquiry to track down fugitive Cezar Florea has revealed he endured sleepless nights.

Detective Inspector Matt Hollingsworth said it had been three years' work to bring the attempted rapist to justice.

He thanked the Romanian community for their help and detailed how the force set up a dedicated Facebook account to reach out to them for information about the violent attacker.

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The Northern Echo:

Cezar Florea, who has been jailed for 16 years for the attempted rape of a middle-aged woman who was walking to work in Middlesbrough. Picture: Cleveland Police

Speaking outside court, DI Hollingsworth said: "This has been three years of really hard work.

"I have had sleepless nights over this and over three years I have got to know the family really well."

The detective said the crime shocked Middlesbrough and caused outrage on social media.

"It was devastating to read that this could happen to anyone's mum.

"She's a lovely, lovely person - you would want her as your mum."

He added: "Over the course of the last three years, we tracked Florea's movements to eventually locate him in Romania.

"We then had to gather enough evidence to gain a European Arrest Warrant in order to bring him back to the UK to face the consequences of his actions.

"This has involved close working with the National Crime Agency, Interpol, the Home Office and the Crown Prosecution Service as well as the Romanian authorities. My thanks go to them.

"More importantly, I would like to thank the members of the community both locally and in Romania that came forward with information which helped us to identify and trace Cezar Florea following the release of footage of him.

"Their information was key to this investigation.

"Finally, on the morning of this vicious attack, there were members of the public who went to the aid of the victim as she lay injured.

"I would like to publicly thank them for helping her in the immediate aftermath of this traumatic ordeal and helping her get the assistance she needed. I know the victim is extremely grateful for their help."