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

Real Crime - - Contents - Words tanita matthews

This vile sex­ual preda­tor was just weeks from be­ing paroled

BACK­GROUND

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.

BREAK­THROUGH

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.

Af­ter­math

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

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