Family flee from the rapist next door

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The Independent Online
A Mother and her three young daughters have fled their home after the release from prison of their next-door neighbour, a convicted rapist.

The man raped one earlier woman occupant of their house, returned from a jail sentence for that, and was charged with the attempted rape of a subsequent occupant, stabbing her husband.

Patricia Parkin and her three daughters, aged five, seven and 11, knew nothing of their former neighbour - David Boulton-Smith, aged 24, who grew up in the house next door - until police made an emergency visit to their home in Silsden, West Yorkshire, and issued Mrs Parkin and the girls with personal rape alarms. Officers also fitted the house with a transmitter alarm system. Mrs Parkin and her husband Brian, an economist, bought the pounds 46,000 four-bedroomed terraced home this summer.

In 1990, Boulton-Smith had broken into it by crawling down the coal shute. He had raped a woman while her children slept in the next bedroom, and had been sent to a young offenders institution for three years.

After serving less than two-thirds of this sentence, Boulton-Smith returned to his parents' home and again broke into the house next door.

He held another woman, a new occupant, at knifepoint. She screamed for help and Boulton-Smith stabbed her husband in the chest. He was charged with aggravated burglary with intent to rape. After plea bargaining, he admitted burglary with intent to steal and a separate case of wounding. He was jailed for five years in 1994.

At the end of this summer, Boulton-Smith was released on licence, on condition that he spend nights at a Leeds bail hostel. He was free to visit his family in Silsden during the day.

"The police left me in no doubt that they thought Boulton-Smith might offend again," says Mr Parkin. "They told me Boulton-Smith had a fixation about the house we lived in. That the electronic protection they were giving us might not be foolproof - that he might see it as a challenge. It seems Boulton-Smith had had no psychiatric treatment in jail, no preparation for release.

"After the police had finished, I was terrified. Nobody had ever said a word when we were negotiating to buy the house, not the vendor, nor his solicitor, nor the estate agent."

Within 24 hours, Mrs Parkin, a teacher, and her children had left home to live with various friends. They now live in a rented cottage. Mrs Parkin is on sick leave due to the trauma of the situation and says she will never go back to her house. It is for sale and Mr Parkin lives there alone. Clauses in the mortgage agreement and the insurance cover say the house cannot be left empty.

Meanwhile, Boulton-Smith has been seen on Silsden's streets - even though the regional daily paper, the Leeds-based Yorkshire Post, last week launched a campaign against his release. Most days the paper has carried his name and photograph; fellow citizens of Silsden have been asked about his violent past; his daily movements have been monitored; one of his previous rape victims interviewed. It is a campaign that some think has verged on a witch-hunt.

A member of Boulton-Smith's family said: "Our lad is trying to go straight and this sort of thing is happening. It isn't fair. He's been let out by the parole board. He hasn't escaped. Why can't they leave him alone?"

West Yorkshire police confirmed they chose to acquaint Mr Parkin with the previous history of his house and offered "crime-prevention advice and support" to his family.

A spokeswoman said: "We are very disappointed that the information provided in confidence has been made public. There are occasions on which the need to alert people to possible dangers outweighs the need for confidentiality."

The West Yorkshire probation service says it was always understood that part of Boulton-Smith's five-year sentence would be served through release on licence. If he re-offends or if his behaviour gives cause for concern, a warrant will be issued for his return to prison.

Randel Barrows, division chief probation officer for the Bradford area, said: "In general the parole authorities do not like banning or exclusion provisions on an offender's release. Any man has a right to visit his family. And experience has shown that it is easier to monitor an individual if you allow him to return to the area where he is known and much more difficult if you banish him to an area where he is a virtual stranger."

Mr Parkin says he has no regrets about the local media campaign against Boulton-Smith. "I and my family are the real victims of this mess," he says. "It seems we are the only ones to have no rights. I have to be separated from my family, my wife is on sick leave because she still feels hunted and depressed.

"And for all this there seems to be no redress. We are nearly broke because we have to pay for rented accommodation as well as the house mortgage. The law on this issue is extremely vague.

"We're wrecked and all because there is a dysfunction between the prosecuting authorities and the prison aftercare services in this country."

Mr Parkin has written to the Home Secretary, Michael Howard, but has received no reply.

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