Man held in serial rape inquiry

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The Independent Online

A man aged 48 has been arrested by officers from Operation Orb investigating a series of rapes and assaults on women, police said today.



A man aged 48 has been arrested by officers from Operation Orb investigating a series of rapes and assaults on women, police said today.

The man, from Ashford, Kent, was arrested at 11.30pm last night near junction 5 of the M20 motorway, a spokesman for Kent Police said.

He said: "In connection with operation Orb, an inquiry into a linked series of rapes, a 48-year-old man from the Ashford area of Kent was arrested at 11.30pm last night near Junction 5 of the coast-bound M20 motorway. "He has been taken to a police station in Kent where he will be interviewed."

Operation Orb was set up to track down a serial rapist, linked by police to 10 sex attacks over the past year on young girls and women aged 10 to 52 in London, Kent, Berkshire, Surrey and Hertfordshire.

It has become the biggest manhunt of its kind since the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper, involving officers from Kent, Surrey, Hertforshire, Thames Valley and the Metropolitan Police.

The "trophy rapist", so-called because he has often taken an item of his victim's clothing, is first thought to have struck on 15 November last year when a 10-year-old girl was raped near Ashford, Kent.

There was a break of eight months before, on 1 July this year, a 12-year-old girl was raped in Bracknell, Berkshire.

On 11 July, a 30-year-old woman was raped in Earlswood, Surrey, and on the same day a woman aged 26 was raped on Putney Common, south London.

On 16 July, an 18-year-old woman was raped in Woking, Surrey, and on 6 August a woman aged 52, was raped on Wimbledon Common, south London.

The following day, a 26-year-old woman was raped in Epsom, Surrey, and on 6 September a girl aged 13 was raped near Woking.

A 22-year-old woman was attacked, but not raped, in Ripley Green, Surrey, on 16 September.

The latest attack linked to the rapist took place on 25 October, when a 14-year-old girl was raped in Stevenage, Hertfordshire.

Following this last attack, police issued a computer-generated image of a suspect which led to thousands of calls from the public.