Car is found in hunt for runaway rapist

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Crime Correspondent

A convicted rapist being sought for questioning about the murder of his girlfriend, a Hampshire businesswoman, and the attempted killing of another woman, is believed to have fled to London.

A car thought to have been driven by the suspect, Victor Farrant, 45, was found 60 miles from the scene of the killing in Portsmouth.

Police put out a national alert for the white Ford Escort and Farrant on Thursday following the discovery of the body of Glenda Hoskins, 45, at her home overlooking the marina at Port Solent. She had been suffocated.

The authorities at ports and airports are also on the look out for Farrant and Interpol have been informed.

Police have linked the death of Mrs Hoskins, an accountant, with the attempted murder of Ann Fidler, a manageress of an escort agency who was left for dead at her home in Eastleigh, Hampshire, after being attacked with a knife and bottles in December.

Mrs Hoskins is believed to have been killed on Wednesday morning. She was found in the loft of her home after one of her three children raised the alarm.

The police reported yesterday that there had been two sightings of Farrant on Wednesday. One was in Brighton at about midday when he was seen by a man who had known him for 14 years and who said he had a mark on one side of his nose which could be a scratch mark, a pimple or a boil. In the early afternoon he was seen by a woman in Portsmouth, who knew him as Vic or Charles Kelly.

Farrant was described by police as "an extremely dangerous man who must be apprehended without delay".

Detective Superintendent David Hanna, who is in charge of the murder inquiry, said Farrant is known to use aliases and can put on accents. He is thought to have connections in Belgium.

He said Farrant did not live at Mrs Hoskins's home and appeared to have led a nomadic existence. He had described himself as a canvasser, a salesman and a builder and appeared to do casual work.

One of Mrs Hoskins's friends said yesterday she was seduced by the good looks, suave manner and generosity of Farrant. Karen Mitchell said the couple had been going out for three and a half months.

"Victor was unemployed but he always seemed to have money. He always looked smart and was a real smoothie."

Det Supt Hanna said his detectives would be examining a tape taken from Mrs Hoskins's answerphone, but he could not confirm reports that Farrant had left a message on it saying "A woman will die in Portsmouth today" and "A woman has been murdered".

Farrant was described as an "appalling, vicious rapist" when he was jailed for 12 years in 1988 for raping a 32-year-old woman whom he had handcuffed and beaten. He was released in November.

The Ford Escort, which belonged to Mrs Hoskins, but is believed to have been taken by Farrant, was discovered in a street in Plaistow, east London, yesterday morning.

Mrs Hoskins was found when police broke into her home after her daughter Kate had been unable to get in and contacted her father.