‘Night Stalker’ Delroy Grant evaded capture for 10 years after ‘appalling police blunder’

Manhunt: Martin Clunes stars in true story crime drama

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Britain’s worst rapist, the Night Stalker, was convinced of sex attacks on pensioners in 2011. Police fear the beast, Delroy Grant, attacked more than a thousand elderly women after sneaking into their homes through open windows or by removing panes entirely. He would then unscrew lightbulbs or switch off electricity at the meter, and rip out telephone wires, before creeping to the bedroom where his next victim was asleep. A new ITV drama Manhunt is based on Grant’s horrific story. It airs on ITV at 9pm tonight.

Returning for a second series, Martin Clunes resumes his role as Detective Chief Inspector Colin Sutton, based on the diaries of real-life detective Colin Sutton, who helped create the drama.

Manhunt: The Night Stalker picks up from the first series in which Detective Sutton solved the murder of Amelie Delagrange in 2004, which also resulted in the finding of the same killer of Marsha McDonnell in 2003 and Milly Dowler in 2002.

Grant’s horrific crimes began in the early 1990s, committing his first attack in October 1992 in the Shirley area of Croydon.

Due to a break of four years between the first attack and a series of others, a dedicated unit to hunt him down was not established until 1998.

Operation Minstead was based out of Lewisham Police Station, however, the team had their work cut out.

Grant was believed to be forensically aware, as he never left a fingerprint at the scene of the crime.

Despite a series of distinctive characteristics linked to his disgusting behaviour, the wide geographical range and randomness of his attacks meant he was incredibly hard to predict.

He struck on all days of the week, but most often during the early hours of a Friday or Saturday morning.

While most of his offences were in the Shirley area of Croydon, he also struck in Orpington, Coulsdon, Forest Hill, Beckenham, Sidcup and other areas of South East London.

Only once did he strike outside Greater London, in the Surrey village of Warlingham.

However, an “appalling police blunder” in 1999 meant Grant evaded capture for a further decade and allowed him to attack at least 140 more victims, according to The Mirror.

In May 1999, the Minstead unit received a crucial breakthrough.

A member of the public had spotted a man acting suspiciously near the scene of a burglary in Bromley, and jotted down the registration number of the BMW which the suspect got into.

Police checked the vehicle’s details against DVLA records, and discovered the car belonged to a Delroy Easton Grant.

The burglary bore a striking number of similarities to Grant’s attacks, thus police referred it to the Scotland Yard team working on Operation Minstead.

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Crucially, a rookie detective “accessed the wrong Delroy Grant who, unlike the rapist, was already on the national DNA database”. Police checked this man’s forensics against those left at the scene of a previous attack, and there was no match.

An Independent Police Complaints Commission spokesman said: “It was a simple misunderstanding which had horrific consequences.”

Two years on, police were contacted by a BBC Crimewatch viewer after an appeal about the Night Stalker, and Delroy Grant’s name was given.

Operation Minstead detectives saw Grant’s name had already been eliminated from enquiries when they went to cross-reference the name.

A decade passed until Grant was finally caught. Pensioners across South East London and Kent had been going to bed terrified they might be his next victim throughout this period.

Detective Superintendent Simon Morgan headed the Operation Minstead team from 2001 through to October 2009.

He said it was difficult to come to a definitive total of the number of offences Grant committed: “His victims come from a generation who are inclined to see good in everyone.

“One thanked him for being gentle when he raped her.”

Another victim did not want to dial 999 “because I know the police are already so busy”.

Metropolitan Police launched a large-scale investigation in October 2009, flooding the Shirley area with 70 undercover officers.

He was caught in the early hours on Sunday, November 15 2009 and arrested while committing another burglary.

It was reported last week that Grant had also been grilled by police over sex attacks on children. The Mirror said he was interviewed about “sexual offences and associated offences against children” at a police station in 2009.

He was never charged with any child sex offences, however.

Grant was found guilty of 22 offences in March 2011. He was sentenced to four life sentences and ordered to serve a minimum of 27 years in prison.

Manhunt: The Night Stalker airs tonight on ITV at 9pm. It will also be available on ITV Player.

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