Page last updated at 14:45 GMT, Thursday, 26 March 2009

Serial sex offender found guilty

Kirk Reid
Kirk Reid evaded capture for more than six years

A serial sex attacker who targeted lone women in south London over a six-year period has been found guilty of rape and sexual assault.

Kirk Reid, 44, of Colliers Wood, was convicted of two rapes and 24 sexual assaults but police believe he was behind at least 71 attacks on women.

He targeted women late at night in the Balham, Clapham and Tooting areas.

Scotland Yard has apologised for errors which meant he was not arrested until four years after becoming a suspect.

The case has been sent to the Independent Police Complaints Commission for a full review.

Reid will be sentenced at a later date. He also admitted two further charges of indecent assault and was found not guilty of one charge of indecent assault.

Commander Mark Simmons of the Metropolitan Police apologises over delays

BBC home affairs correspondent Andy Tighe said the delay in apprehending Reid raised serious concerns among senior Metropolitan officers about the performance of the force's dedicated Sapphire unit that investigates sex crimes.

DNA was twice recovered from victims but, despite being known to police as a potential sexual attacker, following a 1995 charge of indecent assault, no DNA sample was collected from Reid.

Reid, a children's football coach, who worked as head chef at Camberwell College, was acquitted of the 1995 charge, but remained on the police database.

Police in Wandsworth borough realised a repeat sex attacker was operating in September 2002 and identified Reid as a suspect in February 2004.

The public will understandably ask if some of these attacks could have been prevented

Deborah Glass, London IPCC Commissioner

In December 2002, a patrol spoke to Reid and submitted a report after a member of the public reported seeing him following a woman in Clapham.

But, despite him appearing on their radar several more times, he was not arrested until January 2008 when detectives from Scotland Yard took over the case.

IPCC Commissioner Deborah Glass has vowed a thorough review of what went wrong.

"The public will understandably ask if some of these attacks could have been prevented and indeed, if the police took the victims as seriously as they should," she said.

Reid's victims ranged in age from late teens to their early 60s and all of his victims were strangers who were walking alone, late at night.

In most cases, the victims were grabbed from behind and forced to the ground.

These attacks took place between August 2001 and October 2007.

'Inadequate work'

Police believe Reid may have been responsible for dozens of other attacks and have launched a help line for potential victims.

Previous reporting bans on the case were lifted with his convictions and he is scheduled to be sentenced later this year after undergoing psychiatric testing.

Judge Shani Barnes praised officers who finally caught Reid, but reserved sharp criticism for the "years of inadequate work" that had allowed him to elude capture for so long.

Commander Mark Simmons, who is responsible for sex attack investigations at the Met, said there was "no explanation" for why Reid was not picked up sooner and vowed to learn lessons from the case.

"I have no explanation for that. That goes absolutely to the heart of why it has been referred to the IPCC," he said.

Mr Simmons said officers fear that the Reid case, combined with a series of other high profile blunders , has damaged the confidence of victims of sexual violence.

He added said the Met is responding to its alleged failings and will set up a new dedicated sex crimes command.

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