Rapist has assaulted 20 elderly women

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The Independent Online

A man who preys on elderly women living on their own has raped four victims, sexually assaulted 20 and committed more than 60 burglaries, police said yesterday.

A man who preys on elderly women living on their own has raped four victims, sexually assaulted 20 and committed more than 60 burglaries, police said yesterday.

Scotland Yard has appealed for help in catching the rapist, amid fears he could kill. The assailant, who selects women in south-east London, has struck over the past eight years; his victims were aged 67 to 96. He often cuts phone lines and the electricity. The most recent victim, 88, almost died. DNA samples are believed to have linked five of the assaults. Detectives have also linked 66 burglaries in the London boroughs of Croydon, Bexleyheath and Lewisham. The attacker usually chooses a bungalow.

Police believe the man, aged 25 to 35, suffers from gerontophilia, a desire to form relationships, often sexual, with old people. He is described as black, possibly light-skinned, 5ft 8in to 6ft 1in and of medium, athletic build. He has short black hair and is softly spoken.

Officers have narrowed his likely address to 2.5 square miles covering 14,000 properties around Shirley and West Wickham in south-east London.

One victim, speaking in tonight's BBC Crimewatch UK, said: "I'm 86. I live alone. I thought I was safe because the house was double-locked... later I noticed he'd got in by cutting a pane... from the French windows. I though I heard something. I tried to turn on my bedside lamp but it didn't work. I got up to turn on the main light and as I approached the door it opened and the man put his hand around me and over my mouth. I was just numb, I was so shocked."

The woman handed over £100 but the intruder refused to leave. "He just followed everywhere in the dark; it was spooky." The man asked the woman for sex. "I said to him, 'I'm 86 years old: I might have a heart attack and drop dead'." The man did nothing and left after six hours in the house.

The first known attack was in October 1992 when the man sexually assaulted an 88-year- old women in her bed. There were another seven linked offences and the assaults stopped in November. In August 1996 the man indecently assaulted an 83-year-old. Police believe that in the years 1992-96 the attacker may have been in jail or was abroad. There were seven linked offences in 1997 and 19 the next year. Last year he struck 16 times.

Detective Chief Inspector Duncan Wilson, leading the investigation, said: "This offender is targeting one of the most vulnerable groups in society. He genuinely wants to form a relationship with much older women. He spends a considerable amount of time in the house talking to them."

Police have offered £10,000 for information leading to arrest and conviction of the man. Anyone with information should phone 020 8778 3237.

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