People expect rapists to be on the loose in other cities, not here

A series of horrific rapes has shocked Bath, reports Jason Bennetto

Rosemount Lane is a quiet road that drops into a valley on the outskirts of the spa city of Bath.

On one side of the lane is a field with apple trees and a weeping willow. On the other are large detached homes built out of local sandstone. On the night of Thursday 31 October something happened in Rosemount Lane that has thrown the city of 80,000 residents into shock and brought fear to many.

At about 8.45pm a 16-year-old girl was on her way to meet her friend for an evening of Halloween trick-or-treating. But the teenager took a wrong turning and as she neared the bottom of Rosemount Lane she was dragged into an alley by a masked man armed with a knife.

In a passage between Daisy Bank and Chestnut Cottage she was raped.

A few hours earlier a 22-year-old woman returning to her car, parked next to the gigantic structure of St Mary's church on the other side of the city, had been approached by a hooded stranger. The man walked up and attempted to get into her car but she managed to lock the doors and drive off.

The fact that detectives are now linking up to a further 10 sexual assaults in Bath plus two murders in the region and the disappearance of a young woman has had a tremendous impact on what is a privileged community relatively untouched by big-city crime.

David Gledhill, editor of the Bath Chronicle, which has offered a pounds 5,000 reward for the capture of the rapist, explained: "Bath is hardly the crime capital of the UK - if someone vandalises a flower bed it makes news.

"That's why what's happened is such a shock to this city. People expect rapists to be on the loose in other cities, but not Bath."

Also writing in his paper he said: "To become the centre of attention not for our heritage nor for our architecture but for a series of horrific crimes is alien to us all."

All the female staff at the Chronicle have been issued with rape alarms, a piece of equipment that has become commonplace among the women of Bath in the past month.

Jan Hodkinson, 48, who has lived all her life in Bath, and her daughter, also carry alarms now and always lock their car doors when travelling alone.

She said: "It's not a very nice thing to be living with at the moment. Everyone is very nervous and are constantly talking about it. People are joining up for self-defence lessons and taking extra precautions.

"It's terrible to think the rapists might be someone shopping next to you in Sainsbury's.

"But it's important not to go overboard about it - if someone gets a kick out of worrying people you have to draw a line between warning them and terrifying them."

Part of the problem many believe is the lack of affordable parking in the city centre, which forces women to walk to the outskirts often in the dark at the end of the day. However, one of the attacks, in June, involved a women getting into her car at the Ham Gardens car park in the middle of the day.

The city centre multi-storey is a typical concrete monstrosity which the council has attempted to hide away next to the bus station. But its central location has brought home to many women that they are vulnerable anywhere in the city.

Younger women and their mothers are particularly cautious now. Vicky Pettemerides, 14, and her school friend Fran Hunt, 14, are no longer allowed to hang around after dark and both intend to get personal alarms. Vicky, who lives in a village just outside Bath, said: "My mum doesn't want me even walking alone in the village."

Fran added: "We're going to see the Christmas lights being turned on tonight; normally we would stay until 10.30 but mum is picking me up at 8.30."

Erin Houlihan, 19, and Amanda Killgannan, 20, have also changed their lifestyle in the past few months.

"Before I would go out at night and wouldn't think twice about walking home alone, but now we all go around in a big group of people," said Erin.

Amanda added: "Bath is such a quiet town. You don't expect anything terrible to happen in a place like this, do you?"

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links