Schoolboy guilty of tourist gang-rape

Woman on visit to London was dumped in canal to drown after horrifying attack by eight teenagers

Louise Jury
Friday 11 April 1997 23:02
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A schoolboy was found guilty yesterday of taking part in the gang-rape of an Austrian tourist, who was stripped, attacked and thrown naked into a canal to drown.

The haunting images from security cameras show the gang approaching the woman just minutes before the attack took place last autumn.

These pictures were to prove essential in the police investigation.

The boy, who is now 15 and cannot be identified for legal reasons, was the only member of a gang of eight teenagers to deny the horrifying attack in which the woman was repeatedly raped and subjected to "sexual indignities" while members of the gang hurled racist abuse at her.

But an Old Bailey jury rejected his claims that he had merely watched the others and taken no part himself. He will be sentenced later.

The court was told how the pack of youths, aged between 14 and 17, approached the 33-year-old woman after she went for a midnight stroll from her hotel in the King's Cross area of London last September. She was not worried because she thought they were children.

But John Bevan QC, for the prosecution, said the boys dragged her to a secluded area where they could attack her.

"After her clothing had been torn off, she was violently and repeatedly raped by each one in turn," he told the court. One of the boys made her perform a sex act and "threatened to kill her if she bit him in the process".

There were repeated references to the "white bitch" during the attack which Mr Bevan said was "overtly racist in nature".

She was then asked whether she could swim. When she said she could not, her attackers threw her into the Regent's Canal.

The woman, who has two-year-old son and a four-year-old daughter, gave evidence to the court through an interpreter.

She spoke calmly and quietly and cried only after leaving the witness box.

Mr Bevan said: "During these rapes, the reason that she survived as she did seems to be that she, in her own words, separated her mind from her body as much as she could - a remarkable achievement, you may think, in the circumstances."

The only time her composure came close to slipping in court was when she was asked to look at photographs of her young attackers. Although the thought clearly pained her, she said she would if it helped the court.

During the trial, the 15-year-old youth, who is just 4ft 11in tall, said he had been "scared" when he realised what was happening to her and said it was "quite terrible".

He admitted he had been prepared to lie to police when interviewed to protect his brother, but denied telling lies to the court about his own involvement.

The boy was remanded into the care of the local authority to return to court for sentence next Friday, when six of the others will also be sentenced, after reports have been prepared. The 14-year-old "ringleader" will be sentenced later.

After the guilty verdict was delivered on the 15-year-old boy, Detective Sergeant Keith Manktelow, the officer in charge of the case, said so severe was the attack that he and his team could easily have been dealing with a murder case.

He commended the victim for her immense bravery throughout both her ordeal and the subsequent court case, and said security cameras in the street where the gang first approached the woman had proved a great help in the case. Det Sgt Manktelow went as far as calling for many more cameras to give blanket coverage in high-risk areas. "From day one we did not know who was involved, but fortunately for us we got the breaks. Video cameras should be on every street corner," he said.

"Rape by strangers is still rare in London. London is still safe, but when it does happen we will use all the resources at our disposal to track down, arrest and convict as in this case."

Referring to the fact that the victim was thrown into the canal, he said: "This could easily have been a murder case. They must have said to themselves: 'We have had our fun and our sport. Let's get rid of her.' That was the cream on the cake for them, but nobody knows what was in their minds."

The victim, an engineer, was going back to her native Austria to rebuild her life with her two children, Det Sgt Manktelow said.

She had been staying with a close friend during the trial and was pleased with the verdict. He added that it was unfortunate she had gone in the direction from her hotel that she did chose. If she had chosen the other way, she might have been safe.

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