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Joseph McCann
Joseph McCann
Image: Metropolitan Police via PA Images

Man (34) facing life in prison in UK over string of 'horrific' attacks on women and children

Joseph McCann moved across five force areas as he evaded police for 15 days.
Dec 6th 2019, 3:14 PM 32,047 10

Updated Dec 6th 2019, 5:33 PM

THE UK PROBATION service has apologised for “failings” which enabled a 34-year-old man to carry out a series of attacks on women and children.

Joseph McCann, a convicted burglar who had been freed after a probation service error, went on a cocaine and vodka-fuelled rampage, abducting, raping and assaulting victims aged between 11 and 71 in Watford, London and the North West.

McCann, who is now facing a life sentence, changed his appearance and moved across five police force areas as he evaded police for 15 days despite telling his first victim his surname.

On his arrest, he told police: “If you had caught me for the first two, the rest of this wouldn’t have happened.”

McCann, who had addresses in Aylesbury and Harrow, refused to attend his Old Bailey trial and his claim to have had consensual sex with some of his victims was dismissed as “ludicrous”.

The jury deliberated for five hours to find him guilty of 37 charges relating to 11 victims, including eight rapes, false imprisonment and kidnap.

The Ministry of Justice had launched an inquiry into why McCann was not recalled to prison after committing a burglary following his release from an indeterminate sentence for aggravated burglary.

Instead, McCann was automatically freed having served half of his sentence on 15 February, two months before his sex attack spree began.

It is understood one Probation Service worker was demoted as a result of a review of four staff who had direct contact with McCann.

Jo Farrar, chief executive of HM Prisons and Probation Service, said: “We recognise that there were failings and we apologise unreservedly for our part in this.”

Detective Chief Inspector Katherine Goodwin described McCann as “evil” “manipulative” and “cunning”.

He clearly is a horrendously dangerous individual. Each person feared for their lives while they were held against their will.

Four men and two women have been arrested on suspicion of assisting McCann and released under investigation.

Court hearings

The court heard how in the early hours of 21 April, McCann snatched a young woman in Watford and raped her.

The woman reported the attack to police, McCann’s details were put on the Police National Computer and a prison recall was issued.

But McCann remained at large and on 25 April he abducted a 25-year-woman in Walthamstow and subjected her to a 14-hour rape ordeal.

Hours later, he was caught on CCTV bundling another young woman into his car in north London, as her sister ran off screaming.

The pair escaped in Watford, after the 25-year-old hit McCann over the head with a vodka bottle.

She told jurors she was determined to survive and used her “logic” to seize her chance to incapacitate him.

The Metropolitan Police circulated a CCTV image of McCann in Watford and received a tip-off with his name following a public appeal.

On 5 May, McCann tricked his way into the home of a woman he met in a bar in Greater Manchester, tied her up and molested her children, aged 17 and 11.

The teenage girl, who described McCann as “evil”, jumped out of a first floor window to alert police.

As McCann ran out after her, the 11-year-old boy cut his mother free, saying: “Mum, mum, we are safe. (My sister) saved us.”

Later that day, McCann pounced on a 71-year-old woman. He raped her and abducted and assaulted a 13-year-old girl in her car before they got away.

As police closed in, McCann forced two 14-year-old girls into the car by threatening to “chop them up” with a machete.

He was captured on CCTV buying condoms at a service station before he was spotted by a patrol car, which gave chase.

McCann drove the wrong way on a roundabout and crashed into a Mercedes before making off on foot, leaving the “terrified” girls behind.

Later, he was caught in a taxi at a police roadblock, but he ran off into a field, having changed into a wet T-shirt snatched from a clothes line.

A police helicopter finally located him up a tree, he was coaxed down and arrested early on 6 May.

McCann, of Harrow, was convicted of 10 counts of false imprisonment, seven counts of rape, one count of rape of a child, two counts of causing or inciting a person to engage in sexual activity without consent, seven counts of kidnap, one count of attempted kidnap, three counts of causing or inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity, three counts of assault by penetration, one count of sexual assault and two counts of committing a sexual offence with intent.

Justice Edis adjourned sentencing until Monday, saying McCann could attend in court or by video link from prison.

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