DCSIMG

Sex attack victim finally sees justice over ‘the laughing rapist’

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A SEX attack victim has finally seen justice served – 30 years after she first reported her ordeal.

The woman was just a teenager when Stephen Crawford took her to an area near Penshaw Monument and tried to rape her.

Newcastle Crown Court heard how she told police about the attack in the early 1980s, but nothing came of it and Crawford was free to attack at least seven more victims.

Crawford, 51, was given the nickname “the laughing rapist” because of the sneering smirk he gave each time he was cleared of rape charges in relation to five more women during the early 2000s.

Justice finally caught up with the former mobile disc jockey, from Washington, when he was given a total of five life sentences for sex attacks on women in 2007 and 2012.

He had also served sentences for sex offences against women and children in the 1990s.

Crawford’s convictions include rapes, indecent assault and sex with underage girls.

The attacker, who a judge once said “enjoyed the act of rape” was finally tried this week for the attack at Penshaw three decades ago. The court was told he offered his victim a lift home from a pub in Washington in around 1984 – but instead of driving her home, Crawford tried to rape her.

The victim fought him off and her ordeal came to a halt when a passing police car parked nearby.

She reported her ordeal straight away, but nothing came of it.

Prosecutor John Gillette told Newcastle Crown Court: “What happened was actually raised not simply with family members, but also with the police.

“As it happened, nothing was really done about it at that time.”

“It was clear to her what this man was about, he was trying to have sexual intercourse with her without her consent and without any possibility of him believing she was consenting.

“He was going to rape her.”

The court was told the victim came forward for a second time after seeing a report in the press about his other attacks.

Jailing him for five years, Judge Guy Whitburn QC, told him: “Seldom have I come across a record as appalling as yours.

“It is clear at that particular time you really fancied yourself as a source of sexual attraction.

“In my mind, you will not be released for some very, very considerable time, if ever.”

Crawford had denied attempted rape during the trial, which lasted three days.

Speaking after the case the victim told the Echo: “It makes me angry to think he went on to do this over and over again. In many ways I was the lucky one. I was feisty enough to fight back, to fight him off.

“We have to keep him behind bars where he belongs, he’s a danger to women.

“When I think about the women he raped, it makes me so angry. If only people had taken notice of what happened to me.

“It’s truly frightening the scale of what he’s done and the fact he was able to do it time and time again. If only I’d been taken more seriously.

“The police have been fantastic this time round; they’ve really helped me.”

NORTHUMBRIA Police today defended their dealings with victims of sex attacks.

Acting Detective Superintendent Lisa Orchard, of Northumbria Police Protecting Vulnerable People, said: “Northumbria Police takes all reports of sexual offences incredibly seriously and recognises the courage in victims in coming forward and reporting them, no matter when the offence took place.

“A dedicated team of specially-trained officers offer the support victims need throughout the whole process, whether this be from police or other agencies.

“Police work closely with the region’s Sexual Assault Referral Centres.

“The centres aim to make the process sympathetic and make the victim feel as comfortable and as at ease as possible given the circumstances.

“Sexual offences are dealt with in a far different way than they have in the past, with the emphasis now being about putting the victim at the centre of the investigation and ensuring they have the support they require. We would continue to encourage anyone who believes they have been a victim of a sexual offence to come forward and report it, regardless of when the offence happened.

“If a victim does not feel comfortable reporting an incident to police, they can report this to a Sexual Assault Referral Centre, without any involvement from police, where they will be offered relevant support and options available to them.”

 
 
 

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