Sex killer evades police despite DNA and CCTV evidence

In a small children’s play area, in the early hours of the morning, Michelle Samaraweera was raped and murdered by a man police believe she had never met before. The man followed her as she walked home, attempted to befriend her and then attacked.

It was Walthamstow, in May 2009, but the incident was not an isolated one. The man has raped three other women and sexually assaulted at least five more – all within a six month period and all within the same square-mile of East London.

But, despite having the attacker’s DNA and a picture of him, Scotland Yard detectives have so far been unable to catch him. His DNA is not on the database and eight men arrested have subsequently been ruled out of the investigation.

Today detectives will step up their investigation when they post leaflets showing CCTV footage of the man to 60,500 homes in the Waltham Forest borough of London. Officers hope it will provide a breakthrough in the hitherto fruitless manhunt. But the mystery of how he has evaded capture for so long still persists.

Mrs Samaraweera’s case is the most recent that police are linking the man to, but there may have been others since. The 35-year-old was staying at her boyfriend’s house when left at about 3am on 30 May 2009 to the Somerfield supermarket on Markhouse Road. She was followed into the store and then followed out. Her body was found later that morning in a children’s play area. She had been raped and then strangled.

DNA evidence has conclusively linked the man to three other rapes which happened in the two months before Mrs Samaraweera’s death. And analysis of other sexual assaults in the area – including the man’s modus operandi and his appearance – have led the Metropolitan Police to conclude he is responsible for at least five other sex attacks dating back to December 2008.

Detective Chief Inspector Stewart Hill, from the Metropolitan Police’s homicide team admits it is worrying that the man is still at large and concedes it is possible he has fled the country.

“These types of case are exceptionally rare and obviously it greatly concerns us that we have not caught this man yet,” he said. “Usually when we have got DNA and CCTV it doesn’t then take us very long to catch the perpetrator. But in this case it hasn’t happened yet.

“We are probably looking at someone who has moved into the area shortly before he began his attacks and has now possibly left. If that is the case it means that the footprint he has left is not as deep as we would like.”

Police have worked on the theory that the man has carefully selected vulnerable victims who are unlikely or unable to report their experiences to police. One of his victims has learning difficulties, while another was a sex worker. Others have been drug users. But, conversely, one of the woman assaulted was a doctor.

DCI Hill said: “Many of them are vulnerable people, but I think it is more the case that they have been in vulnerable positions, namely that many of them have been out alone in the early hours of the morning.”

The man, who is described as Asian in appearance, usually attempts to engage the victims in conversation before assaulting them. He is also prone to attacking in the same area repeatedly.

St Saviours Church sits on the busy Markhouse Road, but it is surrounded by its relatively secluded churchyard. Three women were assaulted there. South Grove is a street no longer than 200m, but it has been the scene of three attacks.

Yet despite the confined area the man stalks, and the belief of detectives that they are close to catching him, Mrs Samaraweera’s family say that the search is akin to “finding a needle in a haystack”.

Ann Chandradasa, Mrs Samaraweera’s sister, said: “The police are doing the best they can, but no one is coming forward with information. He might not be in the country anymore, but he was obviously living in the area at the time. Someone must know him.”

Crimes committed by the same man who has sexually assaulted nine different women in east London

16 Dec 08, 21:00, woman grabbed
11 Feb 09, 08:05, girl assaulted
19 Mar 09, 22:00, woman grabbed
24 Mar 09, 01:00, woman raped
26 Mar 09, 23:30, woman grabbed
16 Apr 09, 02:00, woman attacked
22 Apr 09, 01:00, woman raped
29 Apr 09, 01:30, woman raped
30 May 09, woman raped and killed

Suggested Topics
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleThe idea has been greeted enthusiastically by the party's MPs
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
i100(More than you think)
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game