Rapist convicted after jury told of past allegations

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A serial rapist, who had been acquitted in five previous sex trials, was jailed for life yesterday in a case which made legal history.

A serial rapist, who had been acquitted in five previous sex trials, was jailed for life yesterday in a case which made legal history.

Nicholas Edwards, 39, was convicted at the Old Bailey of the date-rape of a 23-year-old woman known as Miss D. Evidence from previous rape trials involving seven other women, five of whom lost their cases, was allowed to be given against Edwards. A landmark ruling by the House of Lords allowed, for the first time, evidence from women who had alleged non-consensual sex in the past.

The Lords agreed that each case bore a remarkable similarity in that all the womenclaimed they had been charmed by Edwards into going out with him but that he had later raped them, and claimed in court that they were willing partners.

Police said Edwards had learnt to manipulate the legal system, and that without the other women's evidence, the chances of convicting him would have been "less than average".

The jury were told they need not just take Miss D's word that she had not consented to sex with Edwards. Five other women gave evidence in court, claiming they had been forced into sex.

Edwards, from Sydenham, south London, had denied raping Miss D and protested that it was "unfair" that the jury was told about his previous court appearances.

Edwards, who boasted that he had had 2,000 lovers since the age of 12, when he fathered a child, was first accused of rape in 1981. He was convicted of rape twice, and cleared of attacking women five times. The various juries were not told of the previous accusations.

Detectives said Edwards was a serial rapist who calculated what the women would tell police, and "tailored" his defence to answer their allegations in court. It was always his word against each woman's. But when Edwards was accused for the eighth time, the Crown Prosecution Service decided to try and produce the other accusers in court, and was eventually given permission by the House of Lords.

Edwards sat expressionless as six women took it in turns to tell a hushed courtroom that he had raped them. They described how the charming Edwards suddenly turned "evil" and into "an animal" as he attacked them after dates. Most of them collapsed in tears after giving evidence.

Edwards was on trial for raping Miss D, who said she was raped twice when Edwards tricked her into going to his room after they had been at a south London wine bar in August 1998.

For the other women giving evidence, it was the second time they had told their stories.

Miss N told the court she was still haunted by her experience 16 years ago, when she was 19. She said she became pregnant and had an abortion. Asked if she could remember all the details, Miss N said: "I live with it every day and I have lived with it every day since 1984."

Edwards showed no emotion as he was sentenced to life. Judge Leonard Gerber told the jury: "You have been party to the making of legal history."

The judge added: "It is a very welcome change in a very difficult area where juries have to try cases when it is one person's word against another's."

He said Edwards must serve seven years before parole is considered. "You humiliated her and have not shown one iota of remorse."

He stressed that he was sentencing Edwards for raping Miss D and had put the other allegations out of his mind.

Miss R, now 42, who accused Edwards of raping her in a churchyard in 1991, one of the offences of which he was cleared, said later: "This is justice, although it has come too late for me. When I heard he had struck again, I wanted to do something to help put this man behind bars."