'Beast' rapist gets seven life terms

A "RUTHLESS sexual predator" was last night beginning seven life sentences for terrorising England's Home Counties in a year-long "sustained and vicious campaign of rape" against women and girls as young as 10.

"Beast" Antoni Imiela, aged 49, prowled the south-east of England between November, 2001, and October, 2002, for victims, before overwhelming them with force and threats to kill. Mr Justice Owen handed down seven life sentences to Imiela after he was convicted of raping four women and three girls aged from 10 to 52 at Maidstone Crown Court.

Imiela, a railway worker from Appledore, near Ashford in Kent, was also given concurrent sentences of 10 years, seven years and 12 years for the kidnap, indecent assault and attempted rape of a 10-year-old girl in Birmingham.

Before sentencing Imiela, the judge heard details of his lifetime of violent crime, including a 14-year jail sentence he was given in 1988 for a string of armed robberies.

He then told the serial rapist, who stood impassively in the dock throughout: "You have been convicted on overwhelming evidence of a horrific series of rapes and, in relation to the final victim, kidnap, indecent assault and attempted rape.

"You are a ruthless sexual predator who carefully selected where you could strike at your victims, overwhelming them with force or threats to kill, dragging them under the cover of undergrowth.

"Most thought they would die at your hands, four of your victims were young girls, two aged 10, a 13-year-old and a 14-year-old. You subjected them to humiliating and degrading sexual acts culminating in rape.

"In the course of your evidence in which you denied responsibility, you described the perpetrator of these horrific offences as a beast.

"That was an accurate description but you were describing yourself."

Imiela had denied all the charges, putting his victims through the added ordeal of a seven-week trial at Maidstone Crown Court where some of his victims testified against him in person. However, a jury of seven men and five women rejected his claims that he had been "fitted up", reaching unanimous verdicts on most of the charges just a day after they retired to consider their verdicts.

However, they failed to reach verdicts on two charges of rape relating to allegations that Imiela had attacked an 18-year-old woman in Woking, Surrey on July 16, 2002.

Imiela first struck in November, 2001. By October the following year, he had attacked victims in Kent, Surrey, London and Hertfordshire.

Days before his arrest, "in a final act of defiance", he moved further afield, kidnapping a 10-year-old girl at knife point on the streets of Birmingham and subjecting her to a five-hour sex ordeal.

His attacks struck fear into women in southern England. The media dubbed him the "trophy rapist" because of the way he stole items of clothing from his victims.

Imiela's wife Christine was informed of the convictions by her parish priest in Appledore, the Rev Shuna Body, who had accompanied her to court during the trial. Ms Body said, Mrs Imiela had been "totally devastated" by the verdicts.

"She is totally devastated for the victims as well. Christine is a Christian and she is standing by him in their marriage," she said.

The police officer who led the hunt for Imiela, David Kelly, said: "He is a very dangerous and callous sexual predator. I have no doubt whatsoever that, if we had not arrested him when we did, he would have offended again."

It can be revealed that Imiela was also originally charged with the rape of a 12-year-old girl in Bracknell, Berkshire, but the count was dropped from the indictment because the victim was "too traumatised" to give evidence.

A police source said officers from two of the forces involved in the hunt would visit Imiela in prison in the coming weeks to see if he would confess to these, and possible other, crimes.

Imiela's sentence means he will be eligible to apply for parole after serving 10 years in jail.

Timetable of attacks

Nov 15, 2001

A 10-year-old girl is raped on wasteground after being dragged half a mile from a youth club on the outskirts of Ashford, Kent. She is punched in the face and has her T-shirt ripped from her during the traumatic ordeal. The T-shirt is never recovered.

July 11, 2002

A 30-year-old woman 'power walking' along a footpath close to houses in Redhill, Surrey, is dragged into undergrowth, punched in the face a number of times and raped at around 10.30am. The rapist takes her top, knickers and white sports socks following the brutal attack. Just six hours later, a 26-year-old woman is raped in woodland on Putney Common, south west London.

July 16, 2002

An 18-year-old woman is grabbed around the neck from behind and dragged into undergrowth as she walks home from a friend's house in Woking, Surrey. She is raped twice after being forced to undress. Items of her clothing are stolen by her attacker.

August 6, 2002

A 52-year-old woman walking her dog on Wimbledon Common is raped just past midday in "clear view" of anyone who may have passed.

August 7, 2002

A 26-year-old woman walking along a busy residential street in Epsom, Surrey, at 4.10pm is attacked, taken to nearby woodland and raped.

Sep 6, 2002

A 13-year-old girl is dragged from her bicycle and raped in a wooded area off Pyrford Common Road, near Woking, Surrey.

October 25, 2002

A 14-year-old girl is raped after being dragged into woodland in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, as she was walking along a footpath.

Nov 21, 2002

A 10-year-old girl was walking along a street in the King's Heath area of Birmingham when she is forced into a car at knifepoint and put through a five-hour ordeal. The kidnapper drives her to several areas , tries to rape her and indecently assaults her.

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