How a 17-year reign of terror ended

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Delroy Grant eluded police for decades as detectives hunted a sexual predator dubbed the Night Stalker.

But detectives responsible for running Operation Minstead, one of Scotland Yard's most complex sex crime inquiries, have finally got their man.

Here is a timeline of events leading to his conviction.

:: 1992

The first offence linked to Grant takes place on October 12 when an 89-year-old woman is raped in Shirley, Croydon, south London.

:: 1998

Operation Minstead is launched after detectives forensically link a second rape, which took place in 1997 at a home in south London.

:: 2001

Detective Superintendent Simon Morgan takes responsibility for Operation Minstead, the police codename for the inquiry.

:: 2003

A series of break-ins and sexual attacks take place over the summer which police link to the Night Stalker.

In December, a review of evidence collected so far takes place including several days at the Bramshill training base where forensic material is re-examined.

:: 2004

Forensic work is undertaken into the suspect's ancestry after several samples of DNA are collected. It concludes both his parents originate from the Caribbean.

More than 50 police staff volunteer to provide further samples that narrow the profile to the Windward Islands.

Detectives then turn their sights on potential suspects, asking black men to volunteer to have their DNA taken.

A row erupts over the move, inflamed by strongly-worded letters from police to those who refuse, with claims it is discriminatory.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) warns it may investigate the policy of focusing on those who refuse to give DNA.

Later in the year police focus on a second series of break-ins linked to the same suspect.

The burglaries take place at the homes of two women and a man, all aged 80 and above, in Shooters Hill, West Wickham and Bromley.

:: 2005

In January, police say an early-morning burglary at the home of an 82-year-old pensioner in Sanderstead, south London, has "similarities" to previous offences although the victim was not sexually assaulted.

An appeal for officers to join the Minstead team several months later attracts no applications.

:: 2006

Police draw up a list of 21,500 "people of interest" who have come to light from tip-offs and other clues. More than 4,500 are eliminated, many through DNA tests.

By now 98 attacks are linked to the same man, including four rapes and 24 other sexual assaults. His victims include 10 elderly men, one of whom was sexually assaulted.

Detectives fly to Trinidad to make an appeal for information.

Four of the country's leading criminal profilers are enlisted to create a comprehensive profile of the attacker, which detectives say provides an "amazingly detailed" but "chilling" portrait.

They say the attacker almost certainly has a regular job and leads an otherwise respectable life.

It is also revealed the man took the pulse of several victims when they feigned illness to deter him from attacking them, and told them: "There's nothing wrong with you."

A new appeal is broadcast on BBC's Crimewatch programme which features a recording of a 999 call made by one of his victims.

A reward of up to £40,000 is offered to anyone who provides information that leads to the man's arrest, prosecution and conviction.

:: 2008

Police say three burglaries in south east London in May and June may have been carried out by the Night Stalker, taking the total number of break-ins to 104 in 18 years.

The latest burglaries take place in Norwood on May 11, Downham on May 17, and Lee on June 4.

Officers later release an artist's impression of the suspect after one victim manages to give police a description.

In August, another burglary at an 81-year-old woman's home in West Wickham is linked.

:: 2009

Detectives fear the same man is responsible for nine burglaries at properties in south London in two weeks in June, and say 16 others earlier in the year have also been linked to the investigation.

Detective Chief Inspector Colin Sutton reviews the progress of the case so far and eventually takes over the inquiry, leading to the "rat trap" plan.

Police say one woman was assaulted during the recent spate of burglaries.

In November it emerges that more than 2,000 DNA samples have been taken from suspects at a cost of £102,700 as part of the inquiry.

Eight police officers travel to the chain of Caribbean islands which include Trinidad, Tobago, St Lucia and St Vincent as part of the inquiry.

On November 15, police arrest 52-year-old Delroy Grant, of Brockley, south east London, a full-time carer for his wife Jennifer, who has multiple sclerosis.

He appears in court the next day accused of five rapes, six indecent assaults, burglary with intent to rape, and 10 burglaries.

A district judge remands him in custody and orders that he is passed back to police for further questioning as prosecutors say more charges are likely.

:: 2010

In February, officials at the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) launch an inquiry after potential mistakes in the inquiry are discovered by Metropolitan Police detectives.

:: 2011

Grant goes on trial at Woolwich Crown Court.

On March 24, he is found guilty of all charges.