Violent sex assault cold case solved after a decade in one of the first ever cases of 'covert DNA retrieval'

 

A violent sex attacker was caught when police used ground-breaking anti-terrorism powers to covertly recover DNA from a coffee cup he had used at the end of a four-day surveillance operation.

Detectives followed Keith Henderson to a café where they secretly obtained the forensic evidence which linked him to the horrific assault on two teenagers in 2001.

It is believed to be the first time that the legislation has been successfully deployed in a cold case review and police believe it could help revolutionise the way historic crimes are investigated.

Henderson, who was jailed for 12 and a half years in 2012, believed he had got away the attacks in which he knocked a 16-year-old boy unconscious before forcing his girlfriend to perform a sex act at gunpoint on a river path in Salisbury, Wiltshire.

The victims were left deeply traumatised by the assaults whilst Henderson, 59, evaded a major police manhunt. The full details of the case have only just emerged.

Scene of crimes investigators had painstakingly recovered a DNA profile from a single sperm head. More than 1,500 people were questioned in connection with the inquiry which was later featured on Crimewatch but the attacker was never found.

Chief Inspector Sean Memory of Wiltshire Police re-opened the case in 2007 and traced the DNA profile to Henderson’s family through the national database. During the surveillance operation he was followed to a coffee shop where the cup he had been using was seized by officers and swabbed.

The forensic material could then be used to justify the taking of another sample under the 2008 Counter Terrorism Act which was used as evidence in the successful prosecution.

DCI Memory, who last month received the Excellence in Investigation Award from The Investigator magazine for Best Cold Case, along with a colleague for their work on the inquiry, said the process could become a vital tool in the future.

“Once we had that [the coffee cup swab] we knew it was definitely him and knew it was not some other relative. It left me reassured that we had the right person.

“We only use the covert DNA purely for intelligence. Once we had him we could obtain another DNA profile to use as evidence.

“He never knew we were on to him and had been walking around a free man for 10 years. When we caught him you could see the amazement that we had caught up with him,” he said.

Henderson, who was living in Preston at the time of his arrest was found guilty of assault, possession of an imitation firearm, two counts of unlawful imprisonment and indecent assault at Salisbury Crown Court. He was placed on the sex offenders register for life.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests