Peter Walsh, Crime correspondent
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
He thought he had got away with it... but a cold case review and a sample of DNA landed rapist Peter Carroll in the dock 18 years after his crime as crime correspondent PETER WALSH reports.
Carroll was found guilty of rape and attempting to cause grievous bodily harm with intent following a trial at Norwich Crown Court.
During the attack in Trowse in 1996 his victim tried to fight back and caught some of his skin under her fingernails before she lost consciousness. And when Carroll, 55, was arrested in 2009 in connection with an assault in Aylesbury his DNA sample proved a “hit” with the sample taken from the woman.
He might have moved more than 130 miles away and evaded justice for almost two decades but the reality is that Carroll has never been able to fully escape the grim reality of what he did back in the summer of 1996.
Carroll has attempted to make a new life for himself in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire – about 130 miles from Beccles where he lived until 1993 when he worked as an engineer for Hotpoint.
But the events of the evening of July 20, 1996, haunted Carroll to this very day.
Carroll, who had been to a wedding reception in Great Yarmouth, “decided to have a bit of fun”, picked up a prostitute in Norwich and started to squeeze her round the throat until she passed out.
The victim, then in her 20s and pregnant, tried to fight back and got some of his skin under her fingernails before she lost consciousness – something which would later prove crucial to Carroll’s conviction.
During the trial Carroll, who said the incident was over very quickly, claimed he was acting in self-defence after she started “clawing at his eyes” but
despite being “worried” he might have hurt her, lifted her body from the car and left her there.
Over the years Carroll, who has been married three times, made various admissions when in drink, including having used prostitutes, but by far the most damaging was that which he told his nephew which was relayed to the jury during the trial.
Giving evidence via a video link, Carroll’s nephew, Jason Lack, told a jury how his uncle had twice confessed to him about killing someone. He said the first time he made a confession was after he was involved in a fight at a family Christmas gathering in 2002, when he told Mr Lack he had killed someone.
Mr Lack said at the time he thought it was just the drink talking, but then years later in about 2009, he repeated to his nephew – again after he had been drinking – that he had killed someone and said he could not live with it.
He had the comfort of believing the case remained cold – and perhaps it might have remained cold were it not for a caution he received in 2009 after being arrested in connection with an assault in Aylesbury.
The caution would prove to be the least of his worries.
It was the DNA sample taken from him following the 2009 arrest that would provide a “hit” with the sample taken from the victim’s finger nails which had been looked at again after a cold case review.
DNA stands for Deoxyribonucleic Acid. It carries the genetic code that makes each of us unique. Variations in the code are responsible for physical differences between individuals, such as height, sex, hair and eye colour. The National DNA Database is used by all forces to compare samples recovered from crime scenes. If DNA is only present in very small amounts it can be amplified using a special technique called Polymerisation Chain Reaction or PCR. PCR can produce a result from just one nanogram (one thousand millionth of a gram) of DNA.
Profiling takes between 16 and 24 hours in the laboratory depending on the sample. From crime scene to database to name of a possible suspect can be achieved within 48 hours.
Police praise victim’s courage
Det Insp Marie James, of the Joint Norfolk and Suffolk Major Investigation Team, said: “This was a violent attack on a woman who was left with serious injuries to her head, neck and body. During the attack the victim fought back and in the process scratched Carroll’s face which was to prove crucial to this conviction. We hope that such a case proves how crucial forensic evidence can help secure a successful conviction no matter how long ago the offence took place.”
Det Insp James added: “This was a horrific assault on a woman who has had to live with the consequences for more than 17 years.
“It has taken an enormous amount of courage for her to stand up in court and give evidence and we would like to commend her for the bravery she has shown. Such a case also shows the passing of time should not stand in the way of justice for victims.”
Nasty attack stands out in former detective’s memory
Tony Deacon was a detective inspector in Norwich at the time the victim was raped and assaulted.
He issued an appeal for information about the brutal attack at White Horse Lane, Trowse, on Saturday, July 20, 1996.
Speaking at the time he described it as a “nasty attack” which was being treated seriously by police who still had at the forefront of their minds the 1992 murder of 16-year-old city prostitute Natalie Pearman.
Mr Deacon, now a
civilian member of staff at Norfolk Constabulary who works in the force’s cold case team, which looks into historic unsolved investigations, said he was pleased the case had now come to a resolution.
He said: “It stands out in my memory. Being involved in the Natalie Pearman case, we always had a very clear interest in anything out there.
“It’s one of the quirks of what takes place in policing that you get a breakthrough when you least expect it.
“It’s having that knowledge here and working with live teams that sometimes brings about that breakthrough.
“Neil Stewart took that on and has done a great job. He was a bulldog and went after it and he gets the credit for that.
“It shows that we do a good day’s work despite the fact it’s many years old. I feel good that I’m still here helping to close these cases and will do so as long as I can.”