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Serial rapist jailed indefinitely

A serial rapist who subjected three strangers to terrifying assaults in a 10-week period was jailed indefinitely for public protection today.

Lawrence Dugbazah, 27, of Peckham, south London, targeted young women walking home in the early hours of the morning.

Recorder Sally O'Neill QC, at Southwark Crown Court, told illegal immigrant Dugbazah: "I have taken into account the terrifying nature of these attacks, the lasting harm done by your actions, and that they took place over a very short period of time."

The judge said that if she had not been passing an indefinite sentence, she would have passed one of 18 years, half of which Dugbazah would have spent in custody, minus 440 days he has already served.

The court has heard that Dugbazah dragged his victims to the ground and put his hand in their mouths to stop them screaming.

He pleaded guilty to raping a 19-year-old in Bloomsbury on January 9 last year.

He was arrested for an unrelated fraud matter on March 11 last year, but a DNA link to the attack was not made until March 23.

By then he had attacked a woman in south London on March 13 and in St James's on March 21.

He was arrested on March 25.

Dugbazah was found guilty at the Old Bailey in April of the attempted rape and sexual assault of the woman in the second attack, and rape in the third attack.

The judge said that Dugbazah had been assessed as posing a high risk of further sexual offending after carrying out "premeditated violent rapes".

"The conclusion was that you are a dangerous offender," she told him.

There were a number of aggravating features, she said.

The first was planning - "the CCTV shows you hanging around until you see someone on her own to target, then you put up your hood and follow her".

There was also deliberate and gratuitous violence over and above the commission of the offence, and an element of abduction, in grabbing the women off the street.

"I am satisfied that there is a significant risk of harm to the public," she said.

The first rape was filmed on CCTV after Dugbazah picked the teenager up and threw her to the ground in a cafe doorway in Museum Street, Bloomsbury.

Richard Merz, prosecuting today at Southwark Crown Court, said that Dugbazah pushed his fingers down the victim's throat and she found it difficult to breathe.

He was threatening to kill her and she stopped screaming from an obvious concern for her safety.

"She had dropped her mobile phone, she tried to retrieve it, but the defendant knocked it away, he said, 'just let me have sex with you'.

"She was clearly terrified, and felt she had no option."

After the attack she was extremely distraught and suffered some injuries to her lips, and also to the back of her throat, caused by his fingers.

The Old Bailey heard previously that in the March 13 attack, a 22-year-old woman was pulled to the ground in Lewisham and was about to be raped when a passer-by disturbed the attacker and he ran off.

Then on March 21 an 18-year-old was in Palace Street going to a friend's house after spending the evening at a club in the King's Road, when she spotted a man watching her.

He grabbed her from behind and put his hand down her throat to stop her screaming.

She was shoved into an alcove near a shop doorway and pulled to the ground where she was raped.

She eventually managed to get away and ran semi-naked to a cab waiting further along the road.

Dugbazah admitted three counts of possessing identity documents with intent, relating to false passports, and fraud by abuse of position.

The court heard that he stole in the order of £10,000 from his employer, Sainsbury's, by voiding transactions and keeping the money.

He received 18 months in prison for these other matters.

Gary Rutter, defending, said that Dugbazah told him he came to this country illegally in 1999, when aged 16.

"He came in with other people from Ghana, his entrance was facilitated by other people," he said.

Detective Inspector Lee Davison, from the Metropolitan Police's Sapphire Command, which investigates rapes and other serious sexual violence, said: "Officers from Operation Sapphire would like to pay tribute to the three women in this case. They are thanked for assisting police with this investigation.

"It is as a result of these courageous women agreeing to retell their harrowing ordeal and a thorough investigation into Dugbazah's lifestyle, that Dugbazah has been unanimously found guilty of rape. He received an indeterminate sentence, to serve a minimum of nine years prior to any consideration being given for parole.

"Dugbazah has been convicted of three separate night time attacks after a lengthy investigation by the Metropolitan Police Service's Sapphire Unit.

"The MPS will do everything in its power to support victims of rape and to ensure all crimes of this nature are investigated to a successful conclusion."