Police warn of danger man on crime spree named by

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The Independent Online
A spree of armed robberies, rape, sexual assault and car thefts is believed to have been carried out by a conman who has evaded manhunts by five English police forces, detectives said yesterday

Police took the unusual step of naming and issuing a photograph of the man they want to question for the crimes - Rodney Michael Smith, who is regarded as "very dangerous".

Detective Inspector Richard Bell, of the Metropolitan Police, said his biggest fear was that Mr Smith's alleged armed violence could escalate into a serious confrontation with police.

The safety of the public, he said, was the motivation behind releasing details of the 30-year-old from Grays, in Essex, who also calls himself Luke Smith. A reward of pounds 10,000 has been offered for information which leads to an arrest.

Police fear Mr Smith may also have a death wish having witnessed the suicide of a friend who shot himself after a domestic dispute last year.

Locating Mr Smith, who is 5ft 10in tall and speaks with a London accent, has clearly been a problem for police in London, Thames Valley, Surrey, Sussex and Essex. Without any disguise, he has apparently been able to come in and out of London and openly to use stolen vehicles without police tracking him.

The alleged spree started on 4 April when a 32-year-old female croupier in a hotel in Mayfair, central London, was abducted at gunpoint, made to drive her car to a bank cash dispenser and withdraw pounds 200. She was then taken to a flat in east London, raped and abandoned.

Two days later a Ford Granada was stolen in Hornchurch, Essex, by a man using the name Luke. On 15 April a man tricked his way into the room of a 36-year-old woman in a central London hotel and forced her to strip at gunpoint.

Police also want to question Mr Smith in relation to four other armed robberies last month.

He was last seen inBrighton on 1 May and is also known to have visited Manchester and the West Country. Trail of crime 4 April: 32-year-old female croupier in Mayfair, central London, abducted at gunpoint; raped and abandoned.

6 April: Ford Granada stolen in Hornchurch, Essex, by a man using the name Luke.

15 April: Man forces way into a woman's room in central London hotel; steals jewellery and threatens staff with a gun.

17 April: In Ilford, Essex, female driver of a Toyota MR2 threatened with a gun and has car and jewellery stolen.

18 April: Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire; 59-year-old woman threatened with a gun, forced to hand over jewellery.

23 April: In Hertfordshire a man using the name Luke pulls a gun on a woman advertising a pounds 7,000 Cartier wristwatch for sale. Takes watch and jewellery.