NO FREEDOM FOR EARLY BIRD RAPIST
MONTHS AWAY FROM A PAROLE HEARING THAT COULD HAVE GIVEN HIM HIS FREEDOM BACK, POLICE LINKED A LONGSTANDING COLD CASE TO THIS DEVIANT SEXUAL PREDATOR
This vile sexual predator was just weeks from being paroled
As 18- year- old Yolande Kennedy walked to the bus stop on the morning of 17 September 1985, she caught sight of a man sitting on a wall as she passed Clockhouse Lane in Thurrock, Essex. She had spotted him multiple times in recent days as she left for work at around 6am. Each time she passed him he had charged after her, overtaken her and dashed across a footbridge that overlooked the A13, a busy major road linking the southeastern town to the capital. Yolande hadn’t seen him the day before as she had taken the day off work, but when she returned the following morning he was there once again.
As she passed him she had heard him charge up behind her. Assuming he would pass her as he usually did, suddenly Yolande felt a hand around her neck. In her attacker’s other hand was a small knife, which he held to her throat. “I’m not going to hurt you,” he promised his victim, as she was marched to a nearby farmyard. Here, Yolande’s attacker raped her. After he was finished he simply stood up and walked away. Stunned, Yolande began to dress herself and moved to leave the farmyard via the gate, but was paralysed with fear when she spotted him running back to the scene. She later recalled thinking that she was about to be murdered, but instead her attacker covered his face with his hand as he approached, picked up his knife, which he had left on the ground moments before, and left again.
Yolande sought solace at a nearby house. The male owner took her home, where she told her parents that she had been raped.
The police were called, and they interviewed Yolande. But despite the terrible nature of the crime, Yolande said she felt that she wasn’t believed. DNA evidence was taken by the officers who visited, but thanks to limited resources in forensics technology, it failed to produce results in finding Yolande’s attacker.
For the man who had attacked Yolande, this was not the first time, nor would it be the last time he struck. Christopher Clark’s first arrest had been almost two decades earlier, when he was arrested for indecent exposure in 1966. Fast forward 12 years, and he was convicted at Long Ashton Magistrates’ Court for indecent assault on a Bristol girl under the age of 14. He was only given a 12- month probation order. Within three years, Clark was before Bristol Magistrates’ Court. This time he was convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and was given a two- year conditional discharge. Yolande’s horrific attack in Essex four years later was just another opportunistic attack by the perverted predator and serial offender.
A year after Yolande’s attack, as the details of her vicious assault sat on file and unsolved, Clark was arrested for 13 different offences, including burglary with intent to rape. A spate of attacks over eight months, which had happened in different areas – South Benfleet, Grays, Chelmsford, Hornchurch and Upminster – had been linked to Clark. The assailant, who newspapers would dub the ‘ early bird rapist’, monitored the homes of his victims, waiting for their husbands to leave for work in the morning before breaking into the homes. The lone women inside were threatened, sexually
assaulted and, in at least two incidents, raped in their own homes.
He was sentenced to 14 years behind bars, but after serving only nine years of his sentence, he was back on the streets of Bristol even though he was considered too dangerous to be released on parole. His early release was the result of him earning onethird remission from his sentence for good behaviour. His punishment had been handed down before the 1991 Criminal Justice Act, which made it possible to keep offenders in prison should they still be considered a risk to society.
Within months Clark struck again, this time targeting a 23- year- old teacher just a few metres from the bail hostel where he was staying. The 47- year- old attacker attempted to suffocate his victim, throwing a plastic bag over her head before sexually abusing her. She gouged at his face in an attempt to save herself, and Clark’s efforts to rape the woman were thwarted when her screams alerted residents nearby.
Clark was arrested and this time given a life sentence in 1997 for his depraved attack. But police never linked Yolande’s attack to Clark. She had since married and moved to the USA, partly in a bid to leave behind the terrible ordeal she had suffered in her hometown. She was always frightened that the man who attacked her would come back for her again. Yolande’s relationship at the time fell apart, as did her next two as a result of the trauma she had suffered.
As the decades wore on it seemed as though Yolande would never get justice.
Her attack remained unsolved until a cold case unit with Essex Police reopened the investigation as part of a compulsory scheme within the force. When the DNA that had been stored from Yolande’s case for more than three decades was retested, and the results run through the national database, a match was made to Clark, who was by then in his late 60s and approaching a parole hearing that could have seen him released back into society following his 1994 attack.
Across the Atlantic, in January 2018, Yolande was delivered the news that the man who had attacked her had finally been identified and charged. Although he originally pleaded not guilty, on 2 August 2018 68- year- old
Clark was brought before Basildon Crown Court, where he admitted to the rape. He was given the news a little more than a month later that he was being given an extended 18- year sentence for the distress and violence he had perpetrated against Yolande: 13 years imprisonment and a further five years on licence. He will have to serve at least two- thirds of his 13- year custodial sentence before he will be considered eligible for parole again, making him at least 81 years old before he will be released from prison.
Facing the man who had attacked her more than three decades before, Yolande told him, “You made me feel like I was nobody, somebody that is to be used and abused.” As she spoke, Clark stood emotionless while Yolande fought back tears of grief for the lifetime of fear and pain she had experienced. “You obviously think you’re powerful,” she said, “but in reality you’re nothing, a nobody, a sad old man who hopefully will feel pain for what you have done.” Before she stepped down she told him, “Nothing would make me happier than knowing you will never get the chance to hurt anyone again.”
“Suddenly Yolande felt a hand around her neck. In her attacker’s other hand was a small knife,
which he held to her throat”
After she w as r aped, Yolandein feared she might be murdered the f armyard when her a ttacker unexpectedly returned, but instead he pic ked up his knif e and left her co wering in f ear
So vile and depr aved w ere his acts tha t Chr istopher Clar k’s o wn relatives had tr ied to prev ent him from being released in 1994 when parole f or the ‘ ear ly bird r apist’ was being deliber ated Walking to w ork in the ear ly hours of the morning on a br isk September da y, Yolande K ennedy was held a t knif epoint and r aped by a sic k opportunist who took advantage of lone w omen