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Operation Painter secures three successful convictions

22 Nov 2018

Three men have now been sentenced for serious sexual offences dating back to the 1980s after the cases were reviewed by officers and staff from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit under Operation Painter.

The operation, which began in September 2016, was set up to review undetected rapes and sexual offences which occurred across the three forces between 1974 and 1999.

So far more than 1,400 cases have now been reviewed.

Detective Chief Superintendent Mark Lay is the tri-force lead for the operation. He said: “Operation Painter showcases our commitment and capability to continue to investigate historic cases and bring predatory offenders to justice. The impact of these truly horrendous crimes on the victims is unimaginable and it has been vitally important to us to retain a strong victim focus throughout. I am grateful to each of the victims for their support.”

Last week (13 November) Donald Kargbo-Reffell, 49, of Princess Street, Clapham, was sentenced to 12 years in prison at Luton Crown Court having been convicted on 3 October this year of a rape committed in June 1999.

Taxi driver Shipu Ahmed, 35, of Avondale Road, Luton, was sentenced on Friday 8 June at Luton Crown Court to 22 years in prison for two counts of rape committed within the space of two weeks in late 2007. He attacked his first victim, who was only 15 years old, in a picnic area in Totternhoe Knolls having offered her a lift from Eaton Bray. Two weeks later, Ahmed attacked a 22-year-old woman in the back of his taxi having driven her to an area of Luton.

The first case to be successfully dealt with relates to the rape of a woman in her Peterborough home in 1985 by Ian Harper. Harper, formally known as Ian Harrison who is 58 years old and originally from Hertfordshire, was sentenced on 1 December 2017 at Peterborough Crown Court to life in prison having admitted rape, burglary and indecent assault. In this particular case, paper work had been lost or destroyed and the victim was left so traumatised a psychologist deemed no special measures would assist her in giving evidence at court, meaning a trial would have had to proceed without the victim giving evidence.

Detective Chief Inspector Carl Foster from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit is the Senior Investigating Officer for Operation Painter.

He said: “The significant trauma and personal consequence of what has happened to each of these victims has remained with them since they were subjected to these truly horrendous crimes. Each of these sentences demonstrates how vital this work is in securing justice for the victims, particularly as they believed the offenders may never be caught.

“Whilst cases such as these can be extremely challenging to bring before the courts, simply due to their age, these results represent our commitment to victims in dealing with offenders of these crimes, even if they occurred decades ago.”

Since the operation began, the Major Crime Unit has been working closely with a dedicated team of cold case review scientists at Eurofins Forensic Services to recover evidence held in the National Forensic Archive for examination. DNA profiles obtained are then searched against the National DNA Database to identify potential offenders.

Detective Chief Superintendent Lay continued: “We are extremely grateful to all those who have worked on Operation Painter for their commitment and dedication in seeking some comfort and closure for the victims.”

If you have been the victim of rape or sexual assault, please contact police by calling 101. Your report will be taken extremely seriously and dealt with by specialist officers.

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