Joseph McCann guilty of horrific rapes

Joseph McCann, 34, was found guilty on Friday afternoon at the Old Bailey on 37 offences relating to 11 women and children and could face a life sentence.

The serial rapist Joseph McCann has been handed 33 life sentences with a minimum term of 30 years.

McCann, of Harrow, attacked his victims up and down the country, ranging from an 11-year-old boy to a 71-year-old woman, during a fortnight-long rampage that stretched from London to Cheshire.

The sickening offences included attacks on a teenage brother and sister in together in their own home.

After the jury took less than 24 hours to return the verdicts.

McCann’s attacks took place over two weeks in April and May this year.

An intenal investigation by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has accpeted McCann had been freed early by mistake and was an error.

McCann told his first victim, whom he abducted from a street in Watford, he had just got out of jail after “doing 18 years”.

Jurors and members of the court were frequently upset by the distressing nature of the evidence.

McCann’s first attack took place in Watford on 21 April, when he snatched a 21-year-old woman at knifepoint on the street as she walked home from a club.

She was bundled into a car and taken to a house where she was raped until being released later that morning in a “state of great distress”, prosecutors said.

A 25-year-old woman was then abducted as she walked home in Walthamstow, east London, just after midnight on 25 April.

She was driven off in car then raped “many times” by McCann in a number of locations over 14 hours, including outside a school where he told her he “wanted to make her rape a child”, prosecutor John Price QC said.

While she was still being held prisoner, he snatched a 21-year-old woman in Edgware, north London, as she walked along the street with her sister.

The court heard she “suffered a similar fate” to the 25-year-old woman. The pair finally managed to escape when McCann drove to Watford where he had booked a hotel room.

They hit him over the head with a vodka bottle and fled to get help from nearby workmen.

The search for McCann involved armed police rading a home in Leavesden. 

Officers from the Met immediately launched an investigation to identify the suspect, carrying out house-to-house enquiries, issuing a number of public appeals and analysing hundreds of hours of CCTV.

As part of this work, on 28 April footage was seized from a hotel in Watford where McCann had attempted to check in with the victims just minutes before they escaped.

The same evening, these images were released to the public as part of a media appeal and within hours, he was identified as Joseph McCann. At this stage, Met officers investigating the London offences identified from PNC that he was also the main suspect for the rape in Hertfordshire just days before.

With his identification now known, the work to trace McCann continued at pace, including a number of arrest warrants being executed and extensive phone work being carried out.

A dedicated manhunt team was put in place and further information shared nationally after enquiries revealed his potential historical links with a number of areas throughout the country.

On Sunday, 5 May, police in Lancashire received a 999 call at around 10:30hrs to say a woman had been detained in her own home and her two children – aged 11 and 17 – raped and sexually assaulted. After liaising with officers in London, McCann was soon identified as the prime suspect and the focus of the search moved north-west.

McCann quickly moved away from Lancashire and travelled via public transport to a supermarket in Ramsbottom in Greater Manchester, where he approached a 71-year-old woman as she got into her car at around 13:25hrs.

He forced her to drive away, punching her in the face when she told him to get out of the vehicle, and took her to an industrial estate where he raped her. He later kidnapped a 13-year-old girl from a street in Heywood and sexually assaulted her while the previous victim was still in the car.

Both victims managed to escape at around 17:55hrs while at a service station in Knutsford and called police.

Just over half an hour later, McCann had arrived – in the same car – in Congleton, Cheshire, where he kidnapped two 14-year-old girls who were walking down the road with a friend.

Within 20 minutes, an officer from Cheshire on patrol in a marked police car spotted McCann’s car at a roundabout and a pursuit ensued.

Following a collision with another vehicle, McCann fled the scene on foot and managed to escape from officers. The two girls were left shaken but uninjured.

Road blocks were quickly set up on all roads in and out of Congleton and at 20:38hrs, an officer manning a roadblock stopped a taxi and saw a man matching McCann’s description in the back seat.

He tried to grab him but again, McCann ran from the scene. Despite sprinting through fields to try and lose police, a police helicopter located him just over an hour later, hiding up a tree.

Following a five-hour stand-off with police negotiators, he eventually came down and was arrested by Cheshire officers at 02:36hrs on Monday, 6 May.

DNA evidence also linked McCann to multiple crime scenes including the victims’ homes and clothes.

CPS prosecutor Tetteh Turkson said: “Joseph McCann behaved with shocking depravity. He preyed on women and young children with regard only for himself. His victims endured horrifying acts of sexual violence and were subjected to a truly terrifying ordeal.

“It was through persistence and bravery that some of them managed to escape. They showed great strength of character in recounting their stories to police and giving evidence to the court; reliving some of what must have been the darkest moments of their lives. It is with the power of this evidence, and the courage of the victims in giving evidence, that Joseph McCann has been convicted of his crimes.

“The prosecution case against McCann also included hundreds of witness statements, CCTV footage showing McCann’s movements and forensic evidence collated from different police forces across the country, working together to get justice. I hope today’s verdicts provide some comfort to the victims and allows them to focus on moving on and rebuilding their lives.”