Sex Attacker Preyed On Women For Four Years After Blunder

A serial sex attacker who remained free to terrorise women for four years because of a police DNA blunder was jailed for life yesterday.

Mark Campbell, 38, from Chichester, West Sussex, was convicted of six attacks, including two rapes, which began in February 1998 and ended in August 2004.

He could have been stopped in 2002 when he was arrested over another allegation and a DNA sample was taken from him. However, police failed to send the sample to be tested until 2006, after a case review of the attacks.

Campbell was convicted at Chichester crown court yesterday of four counts of indecent assault, two counts of false imprisonment, three counts of rape, one count of attempted indecent assault, one count of sexual assault and two counts of burglary. Five of the offences took place after the DNA sample was taken, including the rape of two 15-year-old girls, the sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl, and an attempted indecent assault of an 23-year-old au pair.

Sussex police’s assistant chief constable Jeremy Paine apologised yesterday, and said that after an internal investigation a senior police officer and a member of police staff had received “formal words of advice”. He added: “There are no excuses. Having taken this particular sample we didn’t send it off for processing. That had consequences in that Campbell was at large for four years longer than he should have been.” Mr Paine said that within 48 hours of the DNA match being made Campbell was re-arrested, initially charged with three offences, and has remained in custody since.

Campbell was called “the Thursday rapist”, because that was the usual day of his attacks. He stalked some of his victims, to learn when they would be home alone, before striking. In February 1998 he indecently assaulted a 27-year-old woman in Bognor after breaking into her home while her three young children slept upstairs.

A woman he falsely imprisoned when she was just 12 told the court of her continuing trauma. The woman, now aged 19, said: “If I have a good time, I totally forget about it, but sometimes it comes back to me and scares me.”

Campbell’s other offences included the rape of a 21-year-old hotel worker at her workplace. Finally, in August 2004, with his pattern of offending increasing in severity and frequency, he raped a 15-year-old girl who he befriended.

Christine Laing QC, prosecuting, said Campbell was first arrested on suspicion of a peeping tom offence in October 2002, when officers took a DNA sample from him. But, in what Ms Laing described as an oversight, his swab was not sent off for analysis until a case review four years later. Campbell was finally arrested in October last year but denied the offences. He is married with two children, His wife has stood by him since he was arrested.

The court heard that the offences were linked by distinctive hallmarks, leading police to believe they were committed by one person. The main features included the restraint of victims with items of their own clothing, Campbell’s fascination with looking at his victims once their private parts had been exposed, and what he said during the attacks.

Judge William Wood QC said Campbell would have to serve at least 10 years before he became eligible for parole. “In each case the victim has been profoundly affected by the trauma. None of the victims will forget what you have done to them. Some might have the nagging sense that it could have been far worse.”.

Campaigners from Women Against Rape accused Sussex police of an “appalling lack of commitment” and said the case called into question the “real purpose” of collecting so much DNA. Police fear Campbell may have committed other offences and urged women to contact them if they believe he attacked them.