Night Stalker – arrested

The news this morning that police had arrested a 52 year old, married man as a suspect in the case that has defeated them for years was of particular interest to me. The crime he has been arrested for is the rape and violence perpetrated on over a hundred older women aged between 65 and 93 over about a seventeen year period in South and South East London.

For several years I got involved in the search for the so-called Night Stalker in regard to the way the Met Police were collecting DNA samples from black men in South London. I was on the Met Police Authority for five years at that time.

I hope they have got the right man. The fear and terror perpetrated for so many years on older women who lived alone by this man was the most terrible thing in this part of London. It would put an end to a very long nightmare.

My involvement was really sparked by the police methodology used at the time when they asked for voluntary testing of the DNA of black men in the area.

As reported on Guardian on line:

The DNA trawl met some resistance in 2006 after the Met was accused of sending threatening letters to men who refused to take part.

Members of the Metropolitan Police Authority questioned its legality and warned it could inflame community tensions.

(I think their dates may be wrong – as I left the MPA in 2005)

The ask of local black men was to come in and clear themselves of any suspicion by having the DNA test – perfectly reasonable. Except that in the event if a black man refused to come in and refused the test – they were then effectively threatened into a position where ‘voluntary’ was in reality compulsory. Threatening letters were sent – I saw them.

It’s a very difficult situation where there is a real desperate need to find the person. The police knew from descriptions from witnesses that the man was a light-skinned black man. The decision was to test all black men in the area. Clearly co-ersion was not acceptble – but the frustration of the continued attacks and the years of non-success obviously took its toll.

An additional issue was that when DNA samples were taken from these thousands of black men – that DNA was also retained on the database forever – regardless of the fact these men were innocent. Of course, with the recent case in Europe, the Labour Government have been forced to agree to no longer keep information on innocent peoples’ DNA on their database. Typically, however, the Government has decided that it will keep it for six years.

DNA is the most brilliant detection tool – but it still can only be used for corroborating evidence in a court of law. So let’s hope that the man they have arrested is confirmed as the attacker by his DNA – that is the purpose of DNA evidence. 

What is less known or talked about in terms of DNA is that it was the policy of the Labour Government to collect the DNA of people who might (in their view) be likely to commit crimes in the future. This was a complete turnaround on our justice system where we have been used to being ‘innocent until proved guilty. Here was a policy that said basically that you are guilty until proved innocent. Hence the astounding position of the black community who find that around a third of the whole black and ethnic minority population of this country is held on that database . That happened – because of the high rate of disproportionate use of Stop and Search on that community. The other community over-represented on the database is the youth population.

Some years have passed now since my time on the MPA – but the issues around DNA, disproportionate use of police powers and the retention on the database of potential future suspects who are actually innocent at the point of having their DNA taken are still an issue.

I will be very interested to see why this man has taken so long to catch (if it is him) because, whilst eliminating suspects by DNA tests is a logical move, another problem with the DNA route to detection is that the police for that period were so focused on getting black men to come forward for DNA testing – they may have been distracted from perhaps more fruitful lines of enquiry.

Well – we will see when the details come out as to how and why the ‘night stalker’ was arrested and hopefully that will inform us whether DNA was the key to detection or simply to corroboration.

0 thoughts on “Night Stalker – arrested

  1. You were more interested in anti-racist posturing than in helping the police to solve these crimes. Shame on you.

  2. No – was interested in both.

    Supposing the all consuming time spent on getting ‘volunteers’ to give DNA samples had been spent on chasing burglars – the perpetrator might have been caught earlier – as that is how he was caught yesterday.

    And quite frankly – it’s facile to try and denigrate my interest and effort to ‘anti-racist posturing’ particularly as it was not the DNA trawl, as far as I am aware, that netted the suspect. They certainly had DNA from the various crime scenes which they will now be able to use as corroberative evidence – but all that time wasted might have been better spent.

    Moreover, cooperation from within a community is the best way of getting intelligence – so the idea that being concerned about how evidence is taken is in some way wrong or posturing – is bizarre.

    You are clearly only interested in posturing on my blog – rather than addressing key and serious issues.

  3. No idea if Lynne was supposedly posturing at the time, but her post today certainly has a great deal of merit and addresses incredibly important issues.

    Holding onto the DNA of innocent people really goes against everything the this country stands for. It is intrusive, unnecessary, offensive and will actually make the police’s job harder in the long run. Quite frankly if I was asked for a DNA sample in ths situation above I’d tell the police to get stuffed if they were intent on hanging onto it for 6 years (or even longer as at present). I don’t care how horrific the crimes are by the person they’re trying to catch – there’s still no excuse for storing any innocent person’s DNA after they’re cleared.

    We’ve got so many politicians in the Labour Party wishing to store everyone’s DNA, and undermine the judicial process in others ways such as wanting to lower the burden of proof to a much lower standard than all other crime. Even if Lynne had been posturing at least she’s got some common sense on this matter, which is more than you can say for most MPs.

    My only criticism would be Lynne’s failure to state it is of course black MEN and young MEN who are disproportionately represented on the database, though of coruse it’s never politically correct to highlight men being the victims of anything.

  4. Just to add to that point, a percentage of this man’s victims were also elderly men, so not just women.

  5. I am a little confused by your stance against the holding of DNA of the unconvicted – how does this square with the implied criticism of the long time it took to detect this man?

    It is quite obvious that if the entire population – indigenous and immigrant – of this country had had their DNA profile held on a database then this offender would have been caught much – probably 10 years – sooner, and far fewer old people terrorised and harmed.

    Which would you prefer? Is the rape and burglary of our elderly folk a reasonable price to pay for the supposed freedom afforded by not having a proper national DNA database?

  6. Well it turn’s out that it’s someone called ‘Delroy Grant. Police visited the wrong Delroy Grant and ‘eliminated’ him from enquiry. How they done this remains unclear as I understand they had a car number plate. One assumes that each Delroy Grant in Britain has a separate date of birth but this might be too complex for the detectives to comprehend. The surname Grant is not unusual nor is the name Delroy. Hopefully some kind of independent enquiry will take place into these failings as police should not be eliminating someone simply on their name. If I typed Delroy Grant into the PNC I might get 300 results. Was this investigation so appalling that they don’t even record a date of birth against the name of the eliminated person?

    Running a DNA record upon arrest in my view is reasonable but the long term retention of innocent samples is not. This person committed crimes for 19 years and was never picked up so your point about retention of innocent DNA is quite flawed. A million innocent yet this chap not on it and I bet you any money he does have criminal convictions when this comes to court probably just pre-dates routine sampling. If he is completely innocent and has never been convicted you have a case. The police to my knowledge have not stated the man’s criminal history at this point in time so I suggest you wait and see.