14 years for cab driver who preyed on women

Young, lone women who hired Devis Barthram, a 34-year-old minicab driver, did so in good faith, trusting him to take them home safely. Instead, he grossly abused their trust, spying on their every move, raping one of them and indecently assaulting three others in a reign of terror.

He was jailed for 14 years yesterday at the Old Bailey for the attacks which left his victims' lives shattered. Barthram, of Hainault, east London, used his job as a minicab driver to single out victims who were vulnerable to attack. They were invariably young, attractive, single and living alone.

The Common Serjeant of London, Judge Neil Denison, told him: "Over four and a half years you used your employment as a minicab driver to identify women who lived alone and then sexually assaulted them.

"The effects are appallingly serious and in most cases very long lasting. Some of your victims may never completely recover from the effects of your activities."

Barthram admitted one rape, three indecent assaults and a burglary. He had originally faced a further charge of rape and other indecent assaults, which he denied. These were dropped. He was caught while allegedly making indecent phone calls to another three women which were traced to his home. But because of his pleas to the more serious charges, it was decided not to proceed with these, John Black, for the prosecution, had told the court.

In each attack, police believe that Barthram carried out long-term surveillance on his victim. Detective Constable Tony Crofts said outside the court: "He knew who these women were. He knew their habits. He knew exactly what their movements were and waited his opportunity. It is a terrifying thought for any woman."

Barthram first struck in January 1991 while working in Redbridge, east London. He raped a 22-year-old secretary as she returned from work, threatening to kill her if she screamed. He struck again in August 1993 and stripped a 25-year-old sales assistant in her bed before assaulting her.

In December 1994, he targeted a 25-year-old hairdresser living in a ground-floor flat. She had left her patio door open for her cat and had fallen asleep on the sofa when Barthram attacked her. She managed to fight him off, but was left unable to sleep properly because of the ordeal.

A year later, a 26-year-old dress designer woke to find Barthram holding her down in her own bed. She also fought him off and he fled. His counsel, Ronald Thwaites QC, said Barthram expressed regret and self-loathing for his actions and recognised that he must change.

After Barthram was sentenced, a spokeswoman for a London all-women minicab company said firms which catered for female passengers by providing women as drivers were turning away business because of difficulties in finding enough female cabbies.

Val Taylor, owner of the Hackney and Islington branches of Ladycabs, said: "The biggest problem is getting women drivers. We can get them to work a couple of hours a day, but that's not a lot of good. Some have family commitments, and you can't advertise for them, because of the sexual discrimination law."

She urged women not to just get in the first cab they saw when leaving a pub or nightclub.

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