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1981: M5 rapist jailed for life
The man known as the M5 Rapist, who for three-and-a-half years terrorised women in the south west of England, has been sentenced to life behind bars.

John Lambe, a builder and lorry driver aged 37 from Fordingbridge in Hampshire, was given a life sentence on each of 12 counts of rape and concurrent six year sentences on four charges of attempted rape.

Bristol Crown Court was told he began raping women over an "incandescent indignation" against the police following his conviction in 1975 for aggravated burglary.

Gilbert Gray, QC, said Lambe delighted in the confusion and public embarrassment he caused to police.

He picked on women and girls in their own homes. The judge, Mr Justice Bingham, said it was clear many of his victims were in real fear of suffocation or strangulation.

Lambe, who is married to his second wife and has two young sons, sat with his head bowed as the court was told the details of his crimes.

His victims ranged from a girl aged 15 to a widow aged 74. Most lived in the West Country. The widow was one of three victims so upset by the ordeal she could not return to live in her house.

His second victim was a 28-year-old woman who had gone to bed, leaving her husband and father watching television downstairs.

He tried to strangle several women, and threatened one with a knife.

Detective Chief Inspector Don Taylor, who led the inquiry, said: "It was an extremely difficult case because we had a man who would go into a region or an area, commit an offence and then disappear.

"We had very few clues. He wore a stocking mask frequently, or he committed offences at night."

Lambe made his first and last mistake when he was spotted by the husband of his final victim as he was leaving their house in Taunton. A red car was also seen driving away at speed.

He was arrested four days later and confessed to what detectives have called the worst series of sex attacks committed in the area.

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Bristol Crown Court
Lambe's trial took place at Bristol Crown Court

In Context
Lambe had a record of petty offences, including an assault with intent to steal for which he had been jailed. He always maintained his innocence.

He hated the police. Friends claimed he had once handcuffed an officer to a lamppost when he was stopped for questioning.

His second wife, Jackie, was described in court as a woman of "very real principle" who had no idea what her husband was doing during trips "working away from home".

She was reported to have turned down large offers of money to sell her story.

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