Rapist in court as police dig bodies from garden

A convicted rapist who lived among the decomposing corpses of at least 10 women has been charged with multiple counts of sexual assault and murder, as police continue searching his home for more human remains.

Anthony Sowell appeared in court in Cleveland, Ohio, yesterday amid tight security, to learn that he will face the death penalty if found guilty of any of the five killings of which he has so far been accused. He was denied bail.

Bodies were first discovered at Sowell's home, on the city's east side, on Thursday night, when a local woman told police she'd been raped there. Officers noticed an appalling smell coming from the cellar, and discovered a "makeshift grave".

Two more bodies were found in a third floor living room, and another two in an upstairs "crawl space". Five were dug up in the back yard over the weekend. Investigators are trying to determine if a skull found on the property belonged to an eleventh victim.

"It appears that this man had an insatiable appetite that he had to fill," said local police chief Michael Grath, confirming that Sowell had previously served a 15-year prison sentence for a rape committed in 1989. "That's how it appears, and everything is right there at that location."

Sowell was arrested on Saturday, when police spotted him walking down a local alley. Neighbours described him as a well-known character who would often invite women he met on the street back to his rambling home for drinks.

Most of the corpses belonged to young, black females, who had apparently been strangled. Not all the victims have been named; some are too decomposed for their identities to be readily established.

The case raises ugly questions for Cleveland police. For several years, neighbours had complained about a foul smell, particularly in summer.