During the early 1990's a dangerous sexual predator began stalking courting couples in Hampshire's Farley Mount near Winchester. The masked man was believed to have attacked five times over a seven year period and during one incident he kidnapped a woman and drove her to an unknown location where she was raped. The descriptions of the attacker were similar in each case, with the couples describing a man wearing a balaclava and carrying a handgun. Although detectives suspect the same man was responsible for a series of robberies, two indecent assaults and at-least one rape, no one has ever been charged with the crimes despite the arrest of a suspect.
The idyllic Hampshire beauty spot known as the Farley Mount Country Park contains one of the highest points in Hampshire, that being the hill known as Farley Mount which is situated four miles west of the historic city of Winchester. The Country Park is ideal for walking and picnicking and attracts families, dog walkers and courting couples. It was the latter who were targeted by an unknown masked man during a series of brutal attacks which began at the beginning of 1991.
On 25 January 1991 a young couple in their early 20's were parked at the Country Park enjoying the evening when a car approached, sweeping the area with its headlights. The couple then saw the driver stop for a second before driving off. Thinking nothing of it they continued their romantic evening, when minutes later a masked man appeared at their window. He was holding a Beretta-style handgun which he pointed at them and demanded all their money, declaring his intention was only to rob them. After they complied he then pulled out several plastic garden ties and began to tie up the couple before sexually assaulting the 23-year-old woman. He then fled the scene, leaving the distraught couple to escape.
The police had little evidence pointing to a suspect, and the only evidence left at the scene were the garden ties used to bind the couple. Detectives believed the incident, which appeared to be an isolated incident, was possibly opportunistic as there were no more similar attacks reported for the rest of 1991 and throughout most of the following year. However, on 03 November 1992 another incident took place at the beauty spot, one that proved far more serious and sinister. In similar circumstances, a young couple were parked at the Farley Mount Country Park when they saw a car approach at around 10:30pm, sweep the area and then drive off. Moments later a man wearing a balaclava appeared at their window and abruptly opened their door demanding their possessions and money.
When they complied, the masked man ordered the terrified couple to kneel on the backseat whilst he tied their hands. He then used masking tape to blindfold them and then bundled the 21-year-old man into the boot of his own car. He also gagged the woman before taking her to what she would later describe as a Land-Rover type vehicle, and kidnapping her and driving to an unknown location. There she was held over the course of several hours and raped twice. After the assault she was tied up again and driven to a lay-by in the village of Cheriton, near Winchester and released where she summoned help from a nearby house.
The victim would later recount for police her traumatising ordeal, believing her attacker had taken her to an empty disused building where she was raped. The police believed they were now dealing with the same individual who had perpetrated the assault the previous year. Det. Superintendent Steve Watts was placed in charge of the manhunt and commented on the unknown offender and how he was forensically aware, stating "This is a very sophisticated offender who plans the attacks carefully and always remains calm. We can't rule out anybody, and we have to consider people who have particular knowledge about forensic matters. He has an obvious aversion to leaving forensic material in terms of fingerprints and fibres and anything which may result in DNA checks." The killer had even wore a condom during the rape to ensure his DNA was not left behind. Watts then went on to express his concern that the offender might escalate his crimes, adding "I am very concerned that if he ever got into a situation where he had been compromised by leaving something forensic, he would do something even more serious than rape."
Commenting on his MO, Detective Sgt John Gunner said, "We believe the offender visited Farley Mount on a regular basis, checking it out for the right circumstances to attack. We think he would only carry out an attack if all the car parks were empty of cars other than the vehicle he was targeting, particularly the one adjoining where he would park. He always picked on young courting couples, perhaps because he felt they were less likely to fight back, and we feel he would spend some time observing the couple in the car before he struck, usually when they were in a compromising situation. He lulled them into a false sense of security, saying he was only going to rob them. But, once tied up, he has gone on to assault the women. We believe raping the women was always part of the scenario but the methodical execution of his plan is of primary importance. He also appears disciplined enough to walk away and forego parts of the plan if there is a possibility that he may be compromised forensically."
It was believed that the suspect would attempt to place his victims at ease by demanding only money, but once they were tied up his true motive became clear. However, when the victims offered resistance to the masked man he would back off, not risking the chance that forensic evidence might be left during a confrontation or struggle. The suspect also brought his own ligatures to the crimes and removed them before he left, leaving nothing for police to connect to him. No further attacks were reported until almost two years later when a couple were approached by a masked man who attempted to gain entry to their vehicle on 29 November 1994.
In this incident, the victims were able to escape and the gunman fled. The next attack occurred on 22 April 1996, and in a carefully planned assault, a young couple were approached by a mask man carrying a handgun who demanded money and then proceeded to bind the victims. In this attack the 16-year-old girl was sexually assaulted by the suspect, who then fled taking with him the bindings. Some of the victims had caught a glimpse of the suspect and police now had a vague description of the man. He was believed to be between 5ft 8in and 6ft, of stocky build with short dark hair. During the attack he was usually wearing a navy roll-neck jumper, black leather or surgical gloves and carried with him a blue/grey shoulder bag or cream satchel which contained the plastic ties and making tape.
Another two year gap saw an attempted assault on 28 May 1998, during which the couple were accosted by a masked man who tried to gain entry to their vehicle. He was holding a handgun and demanded they open the car door, however the young man acted quickly and drove off, leaving the would-be attacker to flee empty handed. Police were unsure why there were such large gaps between each of the crimes, and over the next four years no more incidents occurred. In 2002 a couple were in their car at the Farley Mount Country Park when they were approached by the masked gunman, who made an attempt to gain access to their car. When this failed, the couple saw the man retreat to his vehicle, which they later described as an S-registration Series Three Land Rover with a canvas roof and then proceeded to follow the man to his home address.
On 27 October 2002, the Sunday Express Newspaper offered a £30,000 reward for information to catch the sex attacker. It was also revealed by the newspaper that the Farley Mount Rapist, which they dubbed the Beast of Farley Mount was one of four rapists who was prowling within a 100 mile radius. The others still at large included the Fareham Sex Attacker, the Thursday Rapist and the the Weekday Rapist, who was considered the most vile and had already attacked at least 10 women since November 2001, with his youngest victim only 10-years-old.
To mark the tenth anniversary of the most serious of the Farley Mount attacks, that of the kidnapping and rape of a woman on 03 November 1992, the police launched an appeal to the public for information in catching the sex attacker. Investigating officers requested information on a vehicle which was seen by several victims, and was described as a short wheel-base green Land Rover that had been spotted shortly before the November attack. The victims of the 2002 attempt then came forward and described for detectives the encounter they had with the masked man, providing details of his car and the address they followed him to.
A 40-year-old man was subsequently arrested by police and questioned at length over the incident, but was later released without charge. A Hampshire police spokesman would later confirm that the case was now on hold until more evidence came to light and explained that the available evidence was sent to the CPS, who ruled there was no case to proceed with. The Crown Prosecution Service would also comment that the chief suspect in the case cannot be prosecuted because of the lack of evidence. After this the hunt for one of Hampshire's most notorious sex attacker had reached a dead end, and no further attacks were reported to police and despite a large investigation, with gained national publicity, the series of robberies, sexual assaults, kidnapping and rape remains unsolved.
Written by Nucleus
Written by Nucleus