My father is innocent, says son of man held in Trophy Rapist hunt

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The Independent Online

Detectives hunting the Trophy Rapist have arrested a man in connection with the 10 sex attacks on women and girls in the South-east.

Detectives hunting the Trophy Rapist have arrested a man in connection with the 10 sex attacks on women and girls in the South-east.

Antoni Imiela, 48, a railway maintenance engineer, was detained shortly before midnight on Monday as he drove home along the M20 in Kent. After a surveillance operation involving dozens of officers, and the biggest hunt of its kind since that for the Yorkshire Ripper, Mr Imiela's car was stopped near Maidstone. He was being questioned yesterday.

"This is a key, significant event for us," said Detective Superintendent Mark Warwick, the acting head of the operation. With the initial 24-hour questioning period expiring late last night, detectives were expected to seek a 12-hour extension to keep Mr Imiela in custody until lunchtime today.

Mr Imiela's semi-detached home on a quiet estate in the village of Appledore near Ashford was being searched by forensic science officers. His wife, Christine, described by neighbours as a "lovely lady" who does voluntary work with the elderly, and her daughter Cheryl, 15, were taken to a secret location.

Mr Imiela moved from his home in Newton Aycliffe, Co Durham, almost 20 years ago to work as a labourer. He did a series of jobs before becoming a safety supervisor with a railway contracting firm and moving to Appledore five years ago.

His sister Jadwiga, 38, said: "I can't believe anyone could think this of my brother, he is just not like that." She said their parents were dead. He maintained close links with his family in Newton Aycliffe.

Aidan Imiela, 19, his son from a previous relationship, added: "Everyone in the family is totally devastated, shocked and upset because we know my dad would never do anything like this. It feels like some kind of horrible nightmare and I want to wake up and find out it's all been a terrible dream."

The Trophy Rapist, who has struck in daylight close to public pathways or buildings, was given the name because he took items of his victims' clothing. After attacking a 26-year-old on Putney Heath, he used her mobile telephone to tell her mother: "I've just raped your daughter."

Officers said the attacker chose the cover of woodland, grabbing his victims from behind and dragging them into the trees, sometimes at knifepoint. The youngest victim was 10 and the oldest 52. The first attack, on 15 November last year, was on the 10-year-old outside a youth club on the outskirts of Ashford. Eight months later, a 12-year-old, cycling home through Bracknell, Berkshire, on 1 July was seized. Ten days later two women were raped within six hours of each other – a 30-year-old on a footpath in Earlswood, Surrey and the Putney Heath victim.

More than 125 officers from five forces were drafted in and 3,000 men gave DNA samples in an elimination process across Kent, Surrey, London, Hertfordshire and Berkshire.

Four more attacks followed – on an 18-year-old in Woking, Surrey; a 52-year-old in Wimbledon; a 26-year-old in Epsom, Surrey; and a 13-year-old, again in Woking. A 22-year-old woman was attacked in Ripley Green, Surrey on 16 September but her dog bit the assailant and he fled.

On 25 October, a 14-year-old girl who was attacked in Stevenage, Hertfordshire was able to give police a description of her assailant and police obtained DNA samples.