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
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'