DNA puts cold case rapist in jail after 25 years

Simon Murcott
Simon Murcott
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A RAPIST who attacked a 31-year-old woman at a bus stop more than a quarter of a century ago was finally jailed for life yesterday after he was caught by specialist “cold case” detectives.

Simon Murcott, 46, emigrated to New Zealand after carrying out the sickening attack in Rotherham in 1985, only to sexually assault a 17-year-old after arriving on the other side of the world.

He was caught for that offence after his victim’s cries were heard by a local resident and jailed for two years by a court in Christchurch. He was deported back to Britain on his release in 1993.

Sheffield Crown Court heard that Murcott then carried on committing violent crimes against male victims in both 1996 and 2003, until he was identified as the rapist by new DNA technology.

Sarah Wright, prosecuting, told the court how Murcott had confronted his victim in the early hours of September 21, 1985, on Doncaster Road, Rotherham, after she had emerged from a phone box.

She added: “The victim had been out to a local pub and then onto a club and went home in the early hours. She arrived home and changed into her slippers but then decided to telephone her boyfriend.

“In 1985 there were no mobile phones so she went to a phone box. As she left the phone box, she saw a man, that man was the defendant.”

The court heard that Murcott dragged his victim from the street into a nearby bus shelter where he carried out the rape, before telling her that he couldn’t let her go because she would call the police.

The victim persuaded Murcott to walk away from the scene with her in the hope of meeting a passer-by.

They then met a neighbour of the victim, who chased Murcott off and alerted police.

Ms Wright told the court that six years after the Rotherham rape, Murcott was caught in his new home country attacking a teenager in what was described as an “remarkably similar” incident by senior detectives.

South Yorkshire Police finally arrested the rapist in October 2009 after comparing the DNA samples taken in 1985 to the national DNA database.

Samples taken when Murcott committed violent assaults in 1996 and 2003, which resulted in serious injury to both victims, matched and he was charged.

Officers also discovered his offending in New Zealand, and although inquiries through Interpol were unsuccessful, they tracked down his second female victim through contacts of an officer in the South Yorkshire force.

That victim offered to travel to the UK to give evidence alongside the Rotherham woman, but Murcott, who had originally denied the rape, changed his plea in February 2010.

Judge Simon Lawler said sentencing in the case had been delayed by a number of factors, including problems with health authorities in Merseyside, where Murcott had been living at the time of his arrest.

Telling Murcott that he must serve at least seven years before he was considered for parole, the judge said he had to consider whether the offence was grave enough warrant a life sentence.

He added: “It must be every woman’s nightmare, particularly when she realised she under threat of being killed”, and said that Murcott would continue to “pose a threat” to the public for the “foreseeable future”.

Speaking outside court, Det Supt Richard Fewkes of South Yorkshire Police said he was “satisfied” with the sentence, but added thoughts should be with the victim.

He said: “This type of crime has a devastating impact on victims and that is particularly so in this case. The victim has had to endure 26 years of not knowing who her attacker was.”