A ‘dangerous’ Suffolk man who preyed on women walking alone at night has been convicted of rape and attemped kidnap offences.
Clive Howard, 56, of Bury Street, Stowmarket, appeared at Norwich Crown Court yesterday after pleading guilty to a series of offences including rape, attempted rape and attempted kidnap in connection with offences in Norwich and Cambridgeshire between 1986 and 2014.
Howard admitted attacking a woman in the St Helens Wharf car park in Norwich near to the Adam and Eve pub on May 30 last year.
The court heard the victim, aged in her 20s, was walking home after a night out when she got a lift from a passing car being driven by Howard.
The woman was taken to a car park where she was raped.
Afterwards, the victim tried taking a photograph of the number plate of Howard’s Volvo but he grabbed her phone and threw it into a bush before driving off at speed.
The woman managed to find her phone and contacted a friend before dialling 999.
Police were able to get part of the number plate for the Volvo involved after looking at CCTV and enquiries led officers to Howard who was identified as the registered owner.
He was arrested and charged with the offence a few days later.
As a result of his arrest, Howard’s DNA was put on the national database and enquiries revealed a match to an unsolved case in Cambridgeshire in 2013.
Detectives started investigating this offence and found “striking similarities” to the Norwich case.
Howard’s DNA matched a profile obtained during an investigation into the attempted kidnap of a woman in her 20s on 5 May 2013 in Cambridgeshire.
The woman had managed to fend off her attacker, scratching him in the process, and a DNA was later retrieved from underneath her fingernail.
He was linked to three other attempted kidnappings in Cambridgeshire.
In total Howard was charged with seven counts of rape, three counts of attempted kidnap and one count of attempted rape, relating to offences between 1986 and 2014.
The offences involve five victims who are all adult women.
Detective Sergeant Chris Burgess, who led the investigation, praised the victims for their bravery in coming forward.
He said: “Reliving an experience such as this is never easy for a victim of sexual assault and I recognise the bravery shown by all victims in this case who would have been prepared to give evidence, had the case gone to trial.
“Howard’s guilty plea demonstrates the strong case police had against him and I believe women are safer with this dangerous man off the streets.
“A striking similarity between the cases is that Howard would prey on women walking alone at night. I hope his guilty plea goes someway to helping his victims move forward from this terrible experience.”
DS Burgess added: “Victims of sexual assault can be reassured we investigate offences thoroughly and sensitively, regardless of when it happened, and I would encourage anyone who has been a victim of sexual assault to come forward.”
Howard has been remanded in custody and will appear at Norwich Crown Court for sentencing on Monday April 20.
Norfolk’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC), The Harbour Centre, operates a 24-hour service for victims of sexual abuse and can be contacted on 0845 456 4810, or call police on 101 to report a crime.
The SARC opened in September 2010 and aims to empower victims by allowing them to report their abuse and undergo medical examinations without prompting a police investigation.
For more information on the Harbour Centre visit www.theharbourcentre.co.uk