Page last updated at 14:49 GMT, Friday, 13 March 2009

Cabbie who preyed on young women

By Andy McFarlane
BBC News

John Worboys
Worboys lied to women to impress them and get their attention

Taxi driver John Worboys, 51, has been found guilty of drugging and sexually assaulting a string of young women during an 18-month campaign.

He was an unassuming presence in the front seat, seemingly no different from the thousands of other black cab drivers who ferry workers, tourists and revellers across London.

John Worboys claimed to be something of a white knight, rescuing vulnerable women from illegal taxi touts - even if they could not afford the fare.

But behind his friendly exterior lay a sinister motive - between October 2006 and February last year, Worboys sedated 12 women, raping one of them, carrying out other sexual assaults on five more and an attempted sexual assault on another. He was cleared of two charges of drugging women.

Eighty-five women have told officers he may have targeted them since as far back as 2002, although police fear the total could be much greater.

When one woman went to police in July 2007, the cabbie was arrested but police decided they lacked evidence to press charges so they let him go. Between then and February 2008, 29 women were attacked by Worboys.

He also drove his black cab in Dorset - where he had a studio which produced adult films - and there have been reports of incidents at the time Worboys was there.

The victims - all travelling alone at night - were aged 18 to 33.

One 26-year-old, from west London, recalled waking in the cab, dazed from the effects of the drugs.

"The next thing I remember is him being in the back trying to put his hand up my skirt," she said.

John Worboys took advantage of his position of trust as a black cab driver in London
Det Insp Dave Reid

"I screamed at him to get off me."

Worboys, a former stripper and porn actor, craved the attention of women to the extent he would concoct stories to impress them.

Boasting of £50,000 casino wins and flaunting a carrier bag of cash, he would win passengers' trust before uncorking miniature bottles of champagne.

Little did they know the cheap Tesco bubbly was laced with date-rape drug Temazepam, or over-the-counter sleeping medication, from the "tool-kit" he kept in the passenger footwell.

Alongside the drugs, he stashed Jack Daniels, gin, vodka or whisky, prescription drugs, plastic gloves, condoms and a vibrator.

As prosecutors put it, there was "everything he would need to stupefy and sexually assault a passenger in his cab".

A fully-licensed driver, Worboys had undergone criminal records checks. As one victim said: "Your guard drops when you are in a black cab, you learn to trust the drivers."

Some remembered nothing after the few sips of laced drink, waking the next morning with the feeling something was seriously amiss.

"I felt just awful, so horrible. Something had been violated," one said.

Ordeals

Others were wary when Worboys offered them a drink but thought it rude to refuse. They poured away the drink or stalled events by phoning friends, only for Worboys' façade to slip as he became frustrated and menacing.

Once, when he failed to get his way, he forced a pill down a victim's throat. Another time he complained: "You've really wasted my time".

Worboys targeted women who had been drinking. Afterwards, many doubted themselves, felt embarrassed or feared wasting police time.

He was eventually caught when a woman went for police examination, having ended up slumped by the toilet after accepting a drink from him.

A media appeal brought forward a flood of earlier victims. Police said that if it was not for these women's courage, Worboys may still have been at large.

His DNA was recovered from a semen stain in one woman's underwear. A wristband belonging to another was found in his house, and a third victim's address was found in Worboys' notebook. Forensic evidence linked a vibrator found in his car to another victim.

In court, Worboys played the victim. Clutching the side of the witness box, as if for support, he sounded almost timid as he blamed his thirst for attention on missing out on cuddles after his mum died of cancer, when he was 13.

TRAVEL ADVICE FOR SOLO WOMEN
Try to book a cab in advance or carry the number of a trusted firm
Avoid shouting personal details too loudly when booking a taxi
Never take anything to eat or drink from a driver
If a driver acts strangely and you become uncomfortable, ask them to drop you off quickly
If the driver will not stop, attract the attention of other road users
At marshalled taxi ranks, watch out for "touts in yellow vests" posing as officials
Call or text friends on arrival home
Source: The Suzy Lamplugh Trust

He had worked as a milkman, junior dairy manager and security guard, before his craving for attention led him to become a stripper. For 13 years, until he was 42, Worboys revelled in performing as "Terry the Minder" for hen parties.

Publicity photographs from the 1980s and 1990s show him sporting a blond tinted "mullet" haircut, posing in American-style police uniforms, satin underwear or rubber-look outfits.

Despite the type of films produced by Worboys in his Dorset studio he claimed he "never really had casual sex", although he revealed "the only time I feel comfortable sleeping... is if I've got someone I'm sleeping with".

These sleeping problems had given him access to prescription Temazepam.

Worboys married once - in 1991, to mother-of-three Jean Clayton - but they were unable to have children together and divorced in 1999.

Hunched on the stand, with furrowed brow and sunken eyes, he wept as he explained it had been 13 years since he had passed "the Knowledge" to become a cabbie.

During that time, he claimed, he carried drinks and cigarettes in his cab to hand to "down-and-outs".

He said he impressed passengers with his "banter", allowing them to smoke inside provided they sit on the floor away from view, or let them believe he was doling out ecstasy tablets when in fact they were vitamin pills - his "vitamin Es".

To officers who investigated his case, this image was as false as the tales of university days he would tell to impress young students.

Det Insp Dave Reid said: "John Worboys took advantage of his position of trust as a black cab driver in London.

"He enticed women into his cab where he took the opportunity to carry out his frightening, humiliating and degrading attacks."

His team will visit Worboys in prison to find out from him what happened to those victims who have no recollection.

They still expect to hear from others who may have fallen prey to a man they believe is one of London's most-prolific sex offenders.

Police are urging any other possible victims to contact them on freephone number 0800 121 4441.

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