Thu, 01 Mar 2018
POLICE are hunting a suspected double rapist who may be posing as a taxi driver in Newbury.
Meanwhile, they are warning women to be on their guard.
It is believed the two rapes, which both occured in the early hours of the morning, are linked.
Detective Chief Inspector Matt Stone, of Berkshire Force CID, said: “We have one potentially predatory offender out there seeking to sexually abuse women.
“Therefore we thought it was appropriate we gave the public the information they need to make informed choices around their own safety.”
Police believe that the offender is either a taxi driver or posing as one – and chillingly he may not be operating alone.
DCI Matt Stone, of Berkshire Force CID, said he believed there was only one attacker, but was “keeping an open mind” about how many other people were involved.
A 40-year-old man from Newbury was arrested on Monday on suspicion of both incidents but has since been released under investigation.
And today, it was confiirmed that no suspect is in custody and that no individual has been charged.
The driver of the vehicle is being described as an Asian man, around 5ft 8in, in his thirties and slim. He has a strong Asian accent.
There will be extra police on patrol in Newbury town centre this weekend and residents are being reassured that “everything is being done to bring the offender to justice”.
Meanwhile, people are being urged to plan their night out and their journeys to and from the town centre.
The advice is to stay with friends, make sure you know each other’s plans, book taxis in advance and to ask to see the taxi driver’s licence.
When asked whether they were searching for more than one person, DCI Stone said: “At this stage we are remaining open-minded to how many people are involved.”
The first incident took place on Friday, January 19, when a woman in her twenties left the Vault nightclub in Newbury with a friend.
The woman and her friend walked across Market Street to a bus stop where they stayed for a period of time.
At around 1.30am on January 20, it is believed that the victim was alone and was picked up by a vehicle in Mayors Lane.
Police investigations have shown that the victim got out of the taxi and went to the cashpoint outside Megabet near St Michaels Road before returning to the vehicle.
At some point after the victim was raped in the vehicle at an unknown location.
The second incident occurred in the early hours of Saturday, February 24.
The victim, a woman in her late twenties, left the Coopers Arms pub in Bartholomew Street.
She got into a taxi near the roundabout at Inches Yard at around 4.20am.
The victim was driven to a property at an unknown location where it is believed she was raped.
DCI Stone said: “It was only following the second offence we got firm evidence to suggest both offences were linked. This clearly increases the risk to the public.”
He added that the police were working with partner agencies and offering support to the two victims.
DCI Stone said he preferred not to release details about whether there were any weapons involved in either incident.
However, he said he believed they had not been drugged.
DCI Stone added: "This is a complex investigation, which is moving at pace. We are reviewing forensic submissions, taking statements and looking at CCTV footage.
"I am making an appeal today to anyone with information about either of these serious offences to contact the police immediately.
"Detectives investigating both incidents now believe the two offences to be linked.
"I want to assure the public that everything is being done to locate and bring the offender or offenders to justice.
"This is a complex investigation involving the obtaining and reviewing hundreds of hours of CCTV, carrying out painstaking forensic work as well as taking statements from potential witnesses.
"It is possible the offender or offenders have confided in someone about what they have done so if you have any information please do the right thing and come forward.
"The easiest way to contact the force is by calling 101 and quoting the reference number 782 (1/3). Alternatively, you can visit your local police station and speak to a member of staff.
"If you do not want to speak directly to the police you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.
"Both victims continue to be offered ongoing support by specially trained officers and other specialist agencies. We would remind the public of the automatic anonymity afforded to victims of sexual offences."
Deputy Local Policing Area Commander Lindsey Finch added: "As part of the ongoing investigation into these offences, officers will be carrying out high visibility patrols in the town over the coming days and into the weekend.
"The patrols will focus on the town centre area of Newbury and officers will be looking to speak to members of the public as part of the extensive investigation.
"I would urge people to only use licensed taxis. Where possible, book with a licensed taxi company in advance or if that is not possible, remember you can always ask for proof a vehicle or driver is licensed.
"It is also advisable to travel with a friend if you are going on a night out.
"If you have any questions or concerns please speak to one of our officers who will be happy to help."