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More taxi sex victims 'to emerge'

14 March 09 08:33 GMT

Police are expecting more victims to come forward after a taxi driver was found guilty of drugging and sexually assaulting female passengers.

John Worboys, 51, of Rotherhithe, south London, was convicted at Croydon Crown Court of attacking 12 women.

Officers say Worboys is linked to 85 attacks in the London and Dorset areas dating back to 2002.

But they fear there could be hundreds more victims and have appealed to them to come forward.

The BBC's crime correspondent, Ben Ando, said police sources had indicated that Worboys might have attacked in excess of 200 women.

Outside court, Det Insp Dave Reid, of the Metropolitan Police, said: "There may be some women who have had experience of Mr Worboys who have not yet reported that matter to the police.

"I would ask any women who have anything to report to us that they do so."

Det Insp Reid praised the "courage" of the 14 women who gave evidence in court.

Police have opened a special phone line - on 0800 121 4441 - for women to call if they believe they may have fallen prey to Worboys.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission will examine the way the case was handled after it emerged Worboys was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault in July 2007 but no further action was taken.

He was held at a police station in Plumstead, south-east London, but released on bail.

'Rape kit'

In February last year he was arrested for a second time, which led to the charges on which he was convicted.

The court heard how the licensed hackney cab driver picked his lone victims up in London's West End and gave them champagne, claiming he had won large amounts of money on the lottery or at casinos.

He was convicted of one rape, five sexual assaults, one attempted assault and 12 drugging charges committed from July 2007 to February 2008.

Worboys had denied all the offences and was also cleared of two drugging charges.

Trial judge Mr Justice Penry-Davey adjourned sentencing until 21 April for reports but told Worboys to expect a "very substantial term of imprisonment".

Prosecutors said Worboys targeted 14 women in total over 18 months until February 2008.

Worboys admitted lying to the women and offering them drinks but claimed he did it because he craved female attention in the wake of a series of failed relationships.

But police discovered a "rape kit", including gloves, alcohol, glasses, drugs, condoms and a sex toy concealed in a plastic bag in another vehicle at his home.

'Dangerous and evil'

Carrie Symonds, who was 19 when she got in a taxi driven by Worboys in 2007, told the BBC that he gave her champagne and a vodka shot.

"I can't remember anything from that point onwards and that's what is so worrying. I believe he got into the front of the cab and did drive me back then straight away.

"I feel that if I was assaulted I would instinctively know. That's what I hope."

The Crown Prosecution Service said it was grateful to the victims who came forward to give evidence.

And Commander Mark Simmons, head of the Metropolitan Police's violent crime directorate, stressed it was still safe for women to go out in London.

"To find someone who is in a position that is generally regarded as almost being one of trust as a black cab driver who abuses that trust, this is highly unusual," he said.

"We advise anyone going out late at night to take sensible precautions to make sure they get home safely. But we're not in any way changing our advice around the use of safe forms of travel at night."

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