The Metropolitan Police were forced to apologise to the victims of a serial sex attacker today after it was revealed he was not arrested until four years after he became a suspect.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) will now investigate the Scotland Yard blunders that allowed predator Kirk Reid to roam the streets of London and continue his spate of attacks for so long.
The 44-year-old children's football coach was found guilty of stalking and attacking 25 women during a 12-year period by a jury at Kingston Crown Court today.
After nearly 26 hours of deliberations following a six-week trial, the jury of 10 women and two men convicted Reid of 26 attacks, including two rapes.
The college head chef, from south London, admitted a further two indecent assaults.
Judge Shani Barnes praised the efforts of officers who finally brought Reid to justice after "years of inadequate work" by police.
Commander Mark Simmons from the Metropolitan Police's territorial policing unit said: "It is clear from the evidence heard in court that the standard of investigation was not what we as an organisation, or the victims, should have expected.
"Reid should have been arrested sooner and I, on behalf of the MPS (Metropolitan Police Service) and as head of Sapphire, am sorry those women who were subsequently attacked by him have been caused unnecessary suffering."
Lisa Longstaff, of charity Women Against Rape, said police incompetence "has to stop".
She said: "The people responsible have to be held responsible, and should lose their jobs.
"It's firmly the responsibility of those at the top to make decisions about where their priorities lie, and that goes right up to the Home Office."
Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary Chris Huhne said: "This is one of the worst cases on record where the police have failed to protect vulnerable women despite repeated and bestial attacks."
Reid repeatedly slipped through the police net over a number of years.
Officers in Wandsworth borough identified that a repeat sex attacker was on the loose in September 2002 and identified Reid as a suspect in February 2004.
But despite Reid crossing their radar on several occasions he was not held until January 2008 when Scotland Yard detectives took over the case.
Police believe Reid preyed on at least 20 more women during the four-year gap.
Reid pounced on his victims as they made their way home from nights out in the Balham, Clapham and Tooting areas of south west London.
Most were between the ages of 20 and 40 but Reid's youngest victim was 17 and the eldest a 61-year-old woman.
The attacks include the rape of a woman Reid grabbed on the street in March 2002 and the unconnected rape of a woman in a flat in 1995.
Police believe Reid is behind at least 71 attacks on women and have launched a helpline for potential victims who may not have yet reported the attacks.
Reid attacked women in three clusters along the A24 corridor, close to Clapham South, Balham and Tooting Bec Tube stations.
He stalked the route of the 155 night bus, a service used by many people heading home from nights out in central London that passes several Tube stations.
He waited until his victims walked into quiet and leafy side streets before grabbing them from behind.
Reid denied rape, 16 counts of indecent assault, three counts of assault by penetration and six counts of sexual assault. He also denied the unconnected rape on another woman in 1995.
Reid, who was cleared of one of the assault charges, will be sentenced on June 5 after undergoing psychiatric assessment.
A Football Association spokesman said Reid was not a qualified FA youth football coach.
* Anyone who believes they have been attacked by Reid can contact specialist police officers on 0800 121 4441.