(Metropolitan Police/PA) John Worboys
From The Times
April 22, 2009
Adam Fresco, Crime Correspondent
A taxi driver feared to be one of Britain’s most prolific sex attackers was jailed indefinitely yesterday for drugging and assaulting a string of women in his cab.
John Worboys, 51, a former stripper, was told at Croydon Crown court that he would serve a minimum of eight years by a judge who said he had “perfected a web of deceit” to ensnare young women.
Detectives believe that he could have attacked as many as 500 women during a 12-year-career as a London taxi driver. Since he was charged 75 have told police they believe they too were attacked by Worboys and since the trial more than 40 others have come forward.
He would tell his female passengers that he had won money at the casino, showing them a wad of cash, and then offer them spiked drinks, usually champagne, before sexually assaulting them.
Senior officers have said that they will now interview Worboys in prison in an attempt to clear up dozens of unsolved sex crimes.
Mr Justice Penry-Davey said Worboys would not be released until a parole board decides he no longer presents a threat to women.
Wearing the same grey suit he wore for the entire trial, Worboys remained impassive as he learned his fate.
The judge said: “Drivers of licensed black cabs in London have a worldwide reputation not only for the reliability of their driving but for their professional trustworthiness.
“As somebody with an enduring and powerful interest in sexual matters you saw an opportunity through cab driving.
“You exploited that trust and, through the use of alcohol and drugs, you sexually abused young women who had trusted you to take them home safely late at night as it was your duty in the circumstances to do.
“You developed and perfected a web of deceit that was sufficient to ensnare young, intelligent and sensible women who had enjoyed a night out and whose only mistake, as it turned out, was to get into your cab late at night.”
The judge ordered that he be banned from driving a passenger vehicle for profit and that his black cab and a carrier bag filled with £3,680 found in his bedroom are forfeited.
The court heard that money from the sale of the £5,000 vehicle will be added to the cash and split between his 12 known victims.
The handling of inquiries into serious sex attacks by the Metropolitan Police has been severely criticised since his conviction.
Police in Plumstead, south east London, missed a key opportunity to end his offending when they arrested him in July 2007 over an attack on a 19-year-old student.
It emerged during the trial that detectives did not act on the incriminating results of toxicology tests that found suspicious drugs in the victim’s blood.
They also failed to search his Rotherhithe home or examine his vehicle to double-check his story.
Several officers face disciplinary action after an inquiry was launched by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
The case of a second sex attacker, Kirk Reid, who stalked women in south west London, raised further difficult questions about police investigations and they were accused of “total and abject failure” with senior officers said to be shocked at the level of incompetence shown.
Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson admitted he is concerned by the failings in the Worboys case but added that lessons could be learned from every policing operation.
He said: “I’ve got to be very careful because there is an IPCC investigation into the circumstances surrounding the Worboys case.
“There are concerning aspects of that case, quite clearly, but there is no job in life where we shouldn’t be learning lessons.”
A spokeswoman for Women Against Rape said that they wanted officers properly disciplined. “We hope that some senior officers will face dismissal over this and similar cases and that it’s no longer enough to admit gross incompetence in catching violent criminals if they continue to protect officers who have presided over this regime.”
During the trial Johannah Cutts, QC, for the prosecution, said: “His intent was to ensure that they were completely at his mercy and then to sexually molest them.
“Having each girl alone in his cab was a start but this defendant we say wanted to ensure that there would be no struggle, no difficulty in achieving his aim.”