Rapist jailed after police errors delayed his capture

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The Independent Online

A serial rapist who remained at large for four years because of a police blunder was jailed for life yesterday for a series of sex attacks on young women and girls as young as 12.

Seven of Mark Campbell's attacks, including two rapes, occurred after officers failed to send a DNA sample off for analysis. It was not until October last year that the 38-year-old welder who had terrorised women in the south of England was arrested.

Yesterday, Campbell, who became known as the "Thursday Night Rapist", was convicted at Chichester Crown Court of a catalogue of attacks including three counts of rape, four of indecent assault, two of false imprisonment, one of attempted indecent assault, one of sexual assault and two of burglary.

Yesterday a spokeswoman from Women Against Rape said: "No one took responsibility even for following up a promising lead which would have saved untold anguish for his later victims and would have enabled those who had already been assaulted to win justice and begin to get some closure of their own," she said, adding: "Other workers who do not do their jobs are sacked. Why are the police, who are supposed to protect the public from violence, immune from accountability?"

Jeremy Paine, assistant chief constable of Sussex Police, apologised for the error and said two staff had received "formal words of advice" – a move considered a step below disciplinary action.

He said: "There are no excuses. Having taken this particular sample, we didn't send it off for processing. That had consequences in that Campbell was at large for four years more than he should have been. It should not have happened and we are very sorry it did. We have done everything we can to learn the lessons so nothing like it can happen again."