Sex attacker cab driver convicted

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The Independent Online

Police were tonight braced for a fresh wave of victims of sex attacker John Worboys to come forward after the taxi driver was found guilty of drugging and molesting passengers.

Worboys - who police fear could be one of Britain's most prolific sex attackers - was convicted of assaulting 12 women during an 18-month reign of terror.

It can now be revealed the hackney cab driver, former stripper and porn star has been linked to 85 attacks in the London and Dorset areas dating back to 2002.

Investigators fear the figure could be just the tip of the iceberg with potentially hundreds more victims too embarrassed or unsure to come forward after falling for his lies.

They have opened a dedicated phone reporting line - 0800 121 4441 - for women to contact.

Croydon Crown Court heard how women fell for his distinctive ruse to lure revellers into joining him for a glass of champagne in the back of his black cab.

Worboys spun them a story of how he had won money on the lottery or at a casino and showed them a carrier bag stuffed full of cash as he invited them to help him celebrate.

But the drinks were mixed with powerful sedatives that left his victims stupefied and powerless to stop him pouncing on them and subjecting them to horrific sexual assaults.

Meanwhile, an independent investigation was under way into how Worboys slipped through the police net after his arrest in July 2007 and went on to attack a further 30 women.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said officers in Plumstead, south east London, could face misconduct charges over their inquiry into an attack on a 19-year-old student.

Worboys was later told there would be no further action despite toxicology tests which found traces of sedatives in her blood and CCTV evidence of him helping her from the back of his cab.

Last week, senior officers announced that Metropolitan Police sex attack inquiries are to be brought under the control of one central unit, led by Assistant Commissioner John Yates.

The jury of seven women and five men found Worboys, of Rotherhithe, south east London, guilty of 19 charges of drugging and sexually assaulting 12 women passengers, including raping one woman.

Worboys held his head in his hands and sobbed as he was convicted of raping a 27-year-old woman he picked up near Tottenham Court Road, in central London, on December 21, 2007.

Trial judge Mr Justice Penry-Davey told the cab driver to expect a "very substantial term of imprisonment" as he adjourned sentencing until April 21.

His former girlfriend, Kathy Martin, 44, who offered to be a prosecution witness, left the court in tears. She said Worboys lived a double life and she had no idea of his crimes.

During the eight-week trial, the court heard how Worboys preyed on women he picked up in London's West End and the wealthy Kensington district.

Worboys cruised the streets late at night looking for women who had already been drinking to offer heavily discounted or even free lifts home.

He often told victims he lived in the same direction and was concerned they would be approached by illegal minicab drivers.

Once in the cab, he offered them a spiked drink and as the women succumbed to the drugs he drove around in circles and turned the conversation to sex.

Many women were left with little memory of their ordeals and can only recall falling asleep in the back of the vehicle before waking up at home.

Some were left with flashbacks of Worboys sitting beside them and adjusting their clothing. One woman remembered being raped, a second woke up to find him with his hand up her skirt and a third said he exposed himself.

The cab driver kept a stash of miniature champagne bottles, as well as other drinks including wine, vodka, gin and whisky, in the passenger footwell.

He admitted lying to the women and offering them drinks but claimed he did it because he craved female attention in the wake of a series of failed relationships.

But police discovered a "rape kit", including gloves, alcohol, glasses, drugs, condoms and a sex toy concealed in a plastic bag in another vehicle at his home.

Worboys used plastic gloves and disposable cups to reduce the chances of leaving forensic traces and shouted at one woman: "You can't go and say that you have been raped because I always use a Durex."

Speaking outside court, Detective Inspector Dave Reid, who led the inquiry, praised the victims who gave evidence.

He said: "First I want to praise the courage of every single one of the women who came forward to police during this inquiry. It's been a major inquiry for the Metropolitan Police.

"In particular I want to thank all 14 women who gave evidence in the Crown Court over the past eight weeks. Their bravery and integrity is beyond any doubt."

Deborah Glass, of the IPCC, said there were "very specific" concerns about the investigation by Plumstead-based officers into the July 2007 attack.

She said: "It is clearly concerning that, despite the Metropolitan Police arresting Worboys in the summer of 2007, he went on to attack more women."