#0403

Batman Rapist

The Bath Rapist

Batman Rapist

"forced to wear tights"

Over a period of almost nine years, a series of sexual assaults and kidnappings were committed by an unidentified man who became known by the media as the Batman Rapist. The offender is believed to have attacked as many as seventeen women in the Bath and Bristol area, always targeting lone victims to assault.

Little is known of offender, who was named after the logo on the baseball camp he wears during this attack. There is speculation concerning his involvement in at least one murder. Although it has been over twenty years since the last attack, the case remains open and is Britain’s longest running serial rape investigation.

The Bath Assaults

The first attack attributed to the Batman Rapist occurred on May 21, 1991. The victim, a 36-year-old woman was attempting to park her car in Coronation Avenue, Bath, when she was accosted by an unknown man. He got inside her vehicle and holding a knife, he directed her to drive away from the area. She was forced to drive to a quiet lane where she was attacked.

This could have been considered an isolated incident, and certainly was for a time, as no further similar attacks were reported. Then, five months later, a second victim reported to police how she was assaulted by an unknown man. The eighteen-year-old was grabbed by a man as she walked up Bathwick Hill in Bath.

Her attacker marched her to a field, and there she was subjected to what was described by officers as “a serious sexual assault”. Both May 1991 and October 1991 victims gave descriptions of their attacker to police, which appeared similar in appearance. Detectives were sure the same person was responsible for both attacks.

This was due in part to commonalities in the offender modus operandi, something that would not be revealed for many years. It appeared the rapist was actively seeking out victims who were wearing tights. When the October 1991 victim was assaulted, it was discovered by the attacker that she was not wearing any, and so he gave her some he had brought to wear. He would rip the tights off during the attack, then make the victim wear them again afterwards.

After the October 1991 attack, there followed a three year gap, when in November 1994, a woman was raped on the grounds of The American Museum in Bath. After this, a further two years passed before the rapist struck again. Three women reported attacks to police during 1996, the first of these on June 9th. One happened outside Bath, that of the abduction and rape of a 19-year-old woman from Kingswood, Bristol in September 1996.

In 1997, there were three more attacks reported. The last attack attributed to the offender occurred on January 26, 1999. On that occasion, a man attempted to abduct a 39-year-old woman in Forrester Lane, Bathwick, Bath, but was scared off when she screamed for help. As he ran from the scene, he dropped a faded grey baseball cap with a green “Batman Forever” logo embossed on the front.

A hat similar to the one dropped by the Batman Rapist.

It was from this piece of evidence, that the unidentified offender received his nickname by the British press. Just ten minutes after his aborted attack in Forrester Lane, the Batman Rapist abducted another woman from a nearby road. He forced her at knifepoint to drive to the village of Monkton Combe just off the A36, and there assaulted her.

It is strongly suspected by police that other attacks were committed by the same offender, in particular during the long periods of inactivity. It is possible the rapist committed other offences in different parts of the country, and for this reason they were not attributed to the Batman Rapist.

In January 2000, the case was part of a number of unsolved cases reviewed by police in Avon and Somerset. As a result the force said it had intensified its investigation, called Operation Eagle, and warned the public there was a strong possibility of another assault. Detective Superintendent Bill Davies, who is leading the inquiry, appealed for other victims who have not reported incidents to come forward.

That same month the investigation was highlighted on BBC’s Crimewatch edition of January 25th. Viewers watched a reconstruction of one of the unidentified offenders rape attempts and were told how he would target women in their vehicles at knifepoint. An appeal was issued by police for information from any witnesses or possible victims.

As a result, six previously unknown victims came forward following the program’s broadcast, bringing the total number of known victims to seventeen. Despite the exposure of his crimes, the Batman rapist attempted an abduction in May 2000, during which he tried to drag a woman from her car while her seven-year-old child slept in the back. Crimestoppers and the Bath Chronicle newspaper offered a £10,000 reward for help leading to a conviction.

The Scar-faced Man

The Batman rapist is described by victims as slim, roughly 5ft 9ins tall, clean shaven, with blue eyes and has a scar below his bottom lip. During the attacks he wore black clothing and a baseball cap. Detectives believe he has an extremely good knowledge of the Bath area, and has committed offences one after the other on the same night.

A pertinent clue to the suspects identity and occupation could lie in the big time gaps between assaults. One theory is that he could live or work away from the area, returning only sporadically to attack women, or that the attacks coincided with relationships he may have had that could have ended, resulting in his committing the offences.

In all, Avon and Somerset Police announced they are aware of 17 attacks on women in Bath and Kingswood, which they described as “a specific hunting ground”. The Batman Rapist, as the offender became known, would target woman in their cars, often at knife point, drive them to a quiet area to attack them before returning the victim where she was found.

A reconstruction of one of the Batman Rapist's attacks.

Some of his victims were “forced to wear tights and were blindfolded with a hairband”. Police believe this a crucial part of the investigation. The offender had a ‘tights fetish’ and police suspect he could get his sexual partner to wear tights during intercourse, during which he may rip them.

Police described how the attacker “is a dangerous and violent man who has attacked all types of women, of all ages. He frequently asks for money, but his motive is clearly rape and he rarely actually steals.” In May 2000, the Observer reported how the names of potential suspects were given to the police, but nothing came of it.

One of those suspects named came from a call in to Crimewatch concerned the son of a diplomat. This suspect was out of the country during the same priods the perpetrator was inactive from October 1991 to November 1994 and February 1997 to January 1999. Police visited the country where the diplomat’s son lived to investigate any similar attacks that might have had happened there, but no further information has been released about this suspect.

Murder Suspect

On June 9, 1996, Melanie Hall, a 25-year-old hospital clerical officer from Bradford on Avon disappeared following a night out at Cadillacs nightclub in Bath. Searches of a nearby river were made by police, but nothing was found, while thousands of clubbers and taxi drivers were questioned, along with a reward of £10,000 offered for any information. No trace of Hall was found, and on November 17, 2004, she was declared legally dead.

Almost two years later on October 5, 2009, remains were found by a motorway worker while clearing a vegetation patch on a slip road at Junction 14 of the M5 motorway. A plastic bin bag was found to contain bones, including a skull, pelvis and thigh bone. Further remains were found buried and spread around the field by the side of the motorway.

These remains were confirmed by police as human, while jewellery found at the scene was show to Hall’s parents, who confirmed it had belonged to their daughter. A later post-mortem gave police confirmation that the remains did indeed belong to those of Melanie Hall. The victim had been tied up with a blue rope, and received severe blunt trauma to her head resulting in a fractured skull, cheekbone and jaw.

Although police do not consider the Batman Rapist a prime suspect in the murder of Melanie Hall, thy have neither discounted him as a suspect owing to the modus operandi of the unidentified rapists attacks. The main suspicion for his involvement remains because he attempted to carjack a woman at knifepoint, leaving her wounded when she fought back and managed to escape in the same area of the city a few hours before Hall was abducted.

Operation Eagle

The police investigation into the Batman Rapist attacks, named Operation Eagle, would go on to be described as one of the most complicated and protracted investigations the force had ever undertaken. As part of this renewed investigation, police distributed 25,000 leaflets in October 2000 to addresses in the BA1 and BA2 postcode areas of Avon and Somerset, in an effort to catch the unidentified offender.

The Batman Rapist is thought to know the Bath area well, because he takes his victims along a number of back roads. The offender tends to strike during dark winter nights and the latest appeal was timed to coincide with the end of British Summer Time. The leaflet-drop conducted by Avon and Somerset police was the biggest in the history of British criminal investigation.

The force said they want women to complete a checklist of questions about a friend, acquaintance, neighbour or relative. In order to suspect an individual of these crimes, a person must be able to tick the boxes as described in the criminal profile. The profile of the rapist, as described by police, is a white male, of slim or medium build, aged between 30 and 50. He knows the Bath area well, and has some connection with Bristol, particularly the Kingswood area, and can drive a car.

The leaflet also suggests that women must be able to tick yes to two of these three descriptions. It goes on to describe how he has a tights fetish and he could get his sexual partner to wear tights which he may rip during intercourse, he sometimes wears a baseball cap, and he has aroused suspicion with absences from home during the evening and early hours of the morning.

Det Insp Paul James, who led the 20-strong team of detectives, said, “This man must not have the chance to strike again. Women in Bath must be able to walk the streets in the knowledge that he has been caught.” As part of Operation Eagle, the investigating team conducted a large-scale DNA collection.

This test occurred in January 2001, when DNA samples obtained from one of the crime scenes and requested swab samples from men whose names have come up during the course of the investigation. Some 2,000 men approached by Avon and Somerset police for a DNA sample were asked to co-operate voluntarily.

Det Insp Paul James told BBC Radio Bristol, “It’s very simply a question of going round and seeing these people and asking them to provide us with a DNA sample, which obviously we can test against stuff we have in our possession. It may well be one of the people that’s in our system that we are now going to visit could well be the offender.”

“It’s equally possible he’s not in our system yet,” he said. Up to this point, police had been unable to make a major breakthrough, but new forensic techniques meant for the first time that the attacker’s DNA fingerprint could be isolated. Investigators then planned to take swabs from all the men whose names have come up during the course of the investigation to test their DNA.

DI James said, “I’m asking the people of Bath to think again, to look at this new information and to tell us who this man is. We are more determined than ever in our hunt for this offender.” Police said they were concerned that the level of violence towards his victims has increased over the years.

After retiring from the force in October 2012, the former detective inspector Paul James said it would be “really unusual” for the prolific rapist to suddenly stop carrying out sexual assaults nearly 20 years after his last offence given the number of crimes he had already committed.

He theorised there was the possibility that the Batman rapist is dead as one of the reasons why he is no longer offending. “It is never too late to make contact and if anyone who has got any information, even looking back on it and reading about it, please contact the Avon and Somerset Police’s cold case team,” he said. “They would be delighted to hear from you.”

A spokesman for Avon and Somerset Police said the Major Crime Review Team are continuing to investigate the serial rapist’s attacks and explore new lines of enquiry. In January 2000, Detective Superintendent Bill Davies Davies, who led inquiry, said: “Someone, somewhere has information that will lead us to this man.”

Written by Nucleus

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