We bungled Stalker manhunt, says Yard

Scotland Yard has been forced to apologise for bungling another high profile manhunt after admitting one of Britain's most depraved sex attackers should have been stopped a decade earlier.

Hundreds of elderly victims are feared to have been preyed on by Night Stalker Delroy Grant after officers botched a chance to arrest him in 1999.



As the 53-year-old former minicab driver was convicted of a 17-year campaign of perverted terror today, the Met was criticised by its watchdog for "basic errors" which had "horrific consequences".



It is the latest in a string of controversies to tarnish the force's record on snaring sex attackers.



Officers previously said sorry for failing to link a string of attacks to rapist cabbie John Worboys and also admitted they should have arrested children's football coach Kirk Reid earlier for stalking and attacking women.



Detectives fear Grant attacked more than 500 elderly people during some of the most "awful and disturbing crimes" ever investigated by the force.



Commander Simon Foy, head of the Metropolitan Police's homicide and serious crime command, said Grant's conviction lifted a shadow of fear from thousands of pensioners living in south London.



But he apologised for the paperwork blunder which led to the DNA of another suspect scuppering attempts to snare the sex beast.



"We are deeply sorry for the trauma suffered by all those victims and our failure to bring Grant to justice earlier," he said.



Twice-married Grant has been told he could face a life sentence for his sickening and depraved attacks.



One elderly victim smiled while a police family liaison officer looked on in tears of relief as the jury at Woolwich Crown Court found him guilty of degrading attacks on 18 frail pensioners across south London.



Grant stood motionless in the dock with his hands clasped throughout as the verdict was returned after eight-and-a-half hours' deliberations.



Judge Peter Rook QC told him: "You have been convicted of 29 offences of the utmost gravity."



Grant is a "perverted, callous and violent individual" who attacked some of the most vulnerable people in society, Commander Foy said.



Between 1992 and 2009 the masked sexual predator preyed on frail men and women and violated them in their homes, sometimes for several hours.



Many of his victims - aged up to 89 - were blind, deaf or had conditions including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.



Grant targeted detached and semi-detached 1930s houses in leafy suburbs, often levering out double-glazed window units with a crowbar to gain entry.



He was a highly-skilled burglar who carried out daytime reconnaissance.



The hallmark of many of his offences was to remove light bulbs, cut telephone lines, then grab his victims with a gloved hand.



He woke terrified pensioners by shining a torch in their eyes before engaging them in conversation.



Grant then subjected his vulnerable victims to humiliating and degrading sexual assaults for a gratification described in court as impossible to understand.



His "stuff of nightmares" crime spree sparked an international manhunt by police.



Officers had been hunting the Night Stalker, under the codename Operation Minstead, since 1998 when two rapes were linked to the same attacker.



Grant, of Brockley Mews, Honor Oak, eluded capture for years as the tally of victims linked to Minstead soared to 203. The offences took place in areas including Warlingham, Shirley, Beckenham, Bromley, Addiscombe, Orpington and West Dulwich.



The sex beast's luck finally ran out when police swooped on his car in the early hours of November 15 2009.



More than 70 undercover officers, supported by hidden cameras and a helicopter, staked out several streets in Shirley, near Croydon, in an ambitious operation after Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson called for a "step change" in the hunt.



Grant, a father of 10 and full-time carer for his estranged wife Jennifer, who has multiple sclerosis, refused to discuss his crimes with police.



But he stunned officers by suggesting they should instead speak to his son.



By the time the case arrived in court more than a year later, he had spun a web of lies in an attempt to get off the hook.



Among a string of "almost laughable" explanations at Woolwich was his claim that his ex-wife stored his semen in 1977, then waited 15 years to frame him for the crimes.



Andrew Hadik, a senior Crown Prosecution Service lawyer, condemned Grant for refusing to face up to his crimes.



He said: "We may never know exactly why Delroy Grant raped and attacked so many innocent people over the last 17 years - he has steadfastly refused to admit any responsibility or to show any remorse.



"His vicious attacks, masked with a contemptuous politeness towards his victims, traumatised people who should have been enjoying the security and comfort of their own homes."

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

Voices
Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014
voices

Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
news

Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

Life and Style
tech

Company says data is only collected under 'temporary' identities that are discarded every 15 minutes

News
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Life and Style
health

Some experiencing postnatal depression don't realise there is a problem. What can be done?

Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
News
i100
Sport
Adel Taraabt in action for QPR against West Ham earlier this month
footballQPR boss says midfielder is 'not fit to play football'
News
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album