DNA blunder let Night Stalker continue

Delroy Grant should have been stopped in his tracks when the spotlight fell on him in 1999, it can be revealed today.

The attacker claimed at least 146 more victims as a result of a police blunder in which detectives mistakenly ruled him out of their inquiry.

These included three elderly women who were raped and 20 more who were sexually assaulted.

A series of mistakes led to Grant being ruled out as a suspect after a burglary in Bromley when the DNA of a second man with the same name was confused with his.

The error meant successive teams of detectives did not reconsider whether Grant could be the vicious sex attacker.

Two years later, in March 2001, a friend of Grant called police after recognising an e-fit on BBC1's Crimewatch.

The informant, who had links with a children's home in Bromley, named Grant and the first name of a second man, and said one of them resembled the e-fit.

But detectives did not make any further inquiries as his name was accompanied by a "code one" DNA elimination notice on the police database.

The long-running police inquiry was plagued by several red-herrings, including suspicions that Grant rode a motorbike and that he was from the Windward Islands.

Commander Simon Foy, head of the Met's homicide and serious crime command, apologised to Grant's victims for failing to stop him in 1999.

Mr Foy said: "In 1999 there was an opportunity to have identified and apprehended Grant but that opportunity was missed.

"When this came to light after his arrest we voluntarily referred this matter to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

"It is entirely appropriate for the Met to apologise for this missed opportunity that led to his continued offending for so long afterwards.

"We are deeply sorry for the trauma suffered by all those victims and our failure to bring Grant to justice earlier."

The IPCC launched an inquiry after the concerns of senior Scotland Yard officers were passed to them in February last year.

The May 1999 blunder followed a night-time raid on the home of an elderly woman in Bromley, south-east London.

The burglary, in which the woman was not sexually assaulted, had some of the hallmarks of a Night Stalker case but was handled by local officers.

Several days later, a neighbourhood watch co-ordinator contacted police to say she saw a black man putting on gloves and walking towards the house.

The eyewitness passed the registration number of a BMW car to police and this was traced to Delroy Grant's wife Jennifer at their Honor Oak home.

A police officer made a search using the name "Delroy Grant" on the police national computer to see if any convicted criminals were likely suspects.

She identified six people, including a Delroy Grant who lived in Hackney and whose last offence was a burglary in Dulwich.

A detective alerted to the lead visited the Grant family home and spoke to Mrs Grant, but her husband was out and no further action was taken.

Meanwhile, a DNA swab was taken from the Hackney suspect and somehow this was confused with Delroy Grant's record, ruling him out of the Night Stalker inquiry.

One source said the DNA mistake was "simply human error" compounded by the structure of the police database which meant the result was never questioned.

He said: "Grant was eliminated without anyone actually seeing him. The crime report ends at that point with no result and no outcome."

Questions remain over the 2001 Crimestoppers call as the caller said he recognised Grant through a childrens' home, although Grant was never a resident at one.

Police spent a significant amount of time trying to identify the home, only to discover the building and all records in it had been destroyed in a fire.

Detective Superintendent Simon Morgan, who led the inquiry from 2001, said the call would not have led police to Grant.

He said: "Looking at what happened to that information at the time and what we now know, that information was completely incorrect."

For several years police suspected Grant rode a motorcycle to his crimes and included the information in their public appeals.

This was based on the fact he wore a biker-style boilersuit with Velcro collar and cuffs, biker-style gloves and a balaclava.

One victim also claimed she heard the distinctive exhaust note of a motorcycle soon after he struck in 1990.

But detectives now believe the noise she heard was the unusual sound of a big-engined American TransAm car Grant owned at the time.

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam