“Any human being, whether you’re a police officer or not, would be absolutely appalled at this.”
Brian Bowden-Brown, lead investigator
In the late 80s a spree of rapes and burglaries is terrorising a South London community.
It begins when a lady of 57 years returns home after a festive family Christmas get-together. She lives alone in a block of flats on Borough High Street. It’s just yards from a police station. It’s dark by the time she puts the key in her door.
Inside, someone is waiting for her. He’s armed with an iron bar.
The first blow to her skull stuns her. He proceeds to repeatedly beat her round the head till she’s totally subdued. She is by now bleeding heavily. When the lady is utterly defenceless and incapacitated, he rapes her.
By the time he’s finished, she’s critically injured. He proceeds to ransack her flat. After stealing what he wants, he then leaves her, with a fractured skull and jaw.
Its 24 hours before her family discover her.
The second attack takes place in the same block of flats. You can see the first victim’s flat from the second. They’re just 40 yards apart.
He breaks in through the back door.
The woman is 77 years old. Again, she lives alone. Her only company is her cat.
He seriously sexually assaults the elderly woman.
“The level of violence...is far more than is necessary just to gain the compliance of the victim...it seems to me that the goal is the infliction of physical injury. And the rape is just a secondary way to make the woman suffer.”
Kerry Daynes, forensic psychologist
Both victims have been beaten and raped. Both have been robbed of small amounts of change.
But the attacks aren’t intended to subdue the victim in order to steal their property. The physical and sexual attacks are the primary motive. They’re intended to degrade.
His third victim survives nearly four hours of his ‘terrible, terrible sexual assaults’. She lives alone in a downstairs flat on Rouel Road.
She is 66 years old. In between being raped, she tries to make cups of tea for him in order to break the cycle. She asks him not to rape her again. She tries to go to the toilet.
Like the other victims, she notices her attacker smells strongly of alcohol.
The attacker is gaining in confidence. He feels secure enough to spend an extended period of time in a victim’s home. He’s following a common pattern amongst sex offenders. His fantasies are developing.
He conceals his identity. He draws the curtains in the victims’ flats to reduce the light. He attacks from behind. He tells his victims not to look at him. He covers the victim’s face.
His fourth victim is 83. She is disabled.
He breaks into her flat on John McKenna Walk. Unusually, there’s no rape. But his physical assault is just as savage and sadistic.
After the attack, the lady never regains her speech.
Other attacks start to be linked to the attacker.
One in particular makes headlines.
An elderly woman claims her attacker crosses himself and mutters a Catholic prayer as he completes his violent assault. The press dub him ‘The Praying Rapist’.
It’s April 1990. Irene Grainey is a 68 year old woman living alone in Bermondsey. She is attacked in her own home. There are other similarities to previous attacks. But this time the offender is armed with a kitchen knife. Irene Grainey is stabbed to death.
Irene lies in her ground floor council maisonette flat for over six weeks before her body is discovered. During this time, vital forensic evidence is lost.
When an 82 year old man answers a knock on the door of his South London home, he’s punched straight in the face. This breaks his jaw and knocks him unconscious. He’s dragged inside. His flat is ransacked. The attacker washes any taps used. A cloth is used to wipe away any fingerprints.
Over the next two decades, the attacker responsible remains at large. The surviving victims spend their remaining years living in fear.