Numerous organisations – the police, the courts, the parole board – have been involved in the case of “black-cab rapist” John Worboys, 60, due to be released within days after being jailed indefinitely in April 2009 for serious sexual offences against at least 12 women. As outrage from politicians and the public grows over the decision to free him eight years and nine months into his sentence, we examine the extent to which Warboys’ victims may have been let down, and by whom.
The first report later linked to Worboys was made as far back as 2002. Several more involving strikingly similar experiences were made before police noticed a pattern and charged Worboys in 2008. Police sent 105 files to the Crown Prosecution Service; campaigners warn the real number of victims of one of Britain’s most prolific sex attackers could be much higher.
In 2010 the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) ruled that Worboys remained free to continue preying on women because police officers made serious mistakes and failed to take victims seriously.
He was initially arrested in 2007, but released without charge after officers believed his version of events. His home and cab were not searched. His victim, then a 19-year-old student, told police the cabbie persuaded her to have a drink and forced a pill into her mouth. She woke up with bruises and her tampon was missing. She later told the Guardian that police laughed when she described her injuries. “[The police officers] said I must have been drunk and fallen over. I was not believed. They talked down to me as if it was my fault, as if I was the criminal, and I just felt they didn’t take me seriously,” she said.
In a crime report a detective constable wrote: “The victim cannot remember anything past getting in the cab. It would seem unlikely that a cab driver would have alcohol in his vehicle, let alone drug substances.” A forensic scientist stated there were no “date-rape” drugs in the victim’s system, but other substances were present. The officer recorded that “it is a mystery” how those drugs got into her system.
Another woman assaulted in May 2003 told the IPCC her injuries were not photographed, witness statements were not taken, she was not believed and that papers were lost.
The IPCC upheld complaints against five out of eight Metropolitan police officers. It recommended that two police officers should be given written warnings and three should receive advice.
The former Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, expressed “deep concerns” over failures in the Worboys inquiry.
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