Local authority official dressed as a tramp to molest girls

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Outwardly, Anthony De Boise was a respected husband and father, an impeccably dressed local authority official who held a senior position with a local authority. But the man known to his friends and colleagues as " Mr Nice Guy" led a bizarre double life.

Discarding the smart suit he wore to work, De Boise would dress as a tramp in scruffy clothes and lie in wait for schoolgirls at woods and beauty spots around south London and Surrey, where he would attack and sexually assault his victims.

Sometimes at knifepoint, he would force his victims to strip, threatening to rape or kill them.

Wearing dark glasses and disguising his educated voice, De Boise fooled the massive police manhunt into thinking that the man who carried out the string of brutal attacks between 1989 and 1996, was a homeless down and out.

After his attacks stopped, De Boise believed he had escaped capture. But when his sister accused him of plundering their father's estate, a police DNA sample found a match with traces from the attacks. Yesterday, De Boise, of Holmbury St Mary, Surrey, who admitted six indecent assaults on girls aged between 13 to 16, was jailed for 13 years. He claimed his attacks were due to a change in the medication he took for diabetes.

Several of his victims were in court; two wept as he was imprisoned. In a joint statement issued afterwards, his victims said : "These attacks have had a catastrophic effect on our families. He has taken so much away from us. However, he has lost and we move on as best we can.''

In a more detailed statement issued separately, one of the women, identified only as "Lindsey" and now aged 24, described how the ordeal shattered her and her family, forced her to change schools repeatedly and was finally responsible for them moving out of the area entirely. "Even now I don't ever go out walking by myself," she added.

Police believe that some of the victims may have never come forward.

Passing sentence, Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith said De Boise's behaviour had had a "ghastly ripple effect" in Surrey where the attacks took place, leaving youngsters too terrified to venture out and their parents frantic about their safety.

"It looks as though you were simply acting out your sexual fantasies and this fantasy life became more extreme as time went on."

"If the right circumstances arose, you could well present a continuing danger to teenage girls."

DC Andy Lawrence said the attacks had caused "mass panic in the area". "He was a predatory sexual offender who preyed on young and vulnerable children. He acted with no regard other than to satisfy his own sexual lust."

The court heard that he was well regarded by friends, who described him as "kind, caring, decent, considerate and gentle ... someone who could be trusted".

De Boise's wife, Susan, who had watched her husband of 30 years led to the cells, said he was "still very much loved' by his family''.

She added: "Tony's family and friends ... truly believe that the incidents occurred while he was in a state of severe diabetic hypoglycaemia, which has a profound effect on the brain. I am heartbroken for everyone involved."