Delroy Grant, a seemingly friendly neighbour and husband with a disabled wife, between October 1992 and May 2009 committed possibly more than 100 offences on elderly women living alone, aged between 68 and 93.
He was found guilty on 29 counts on March 24, 2011.
The following day he was given four life sentences and ordered to serve a minimum of 27 years in prison. He had been caught by the Met’s 10-year-long Operation Minstead based at Lewisham police station. The operation was, at the time, the largest and most complex rape investigation ever undertaken by the Met. Here TOBY PORTER recounts the case.
Delroy Grant lived in the last house in Brockley Mews, a cul-de-sac with only 19 homes, in Lewisham.
It’s a quiet close, with rail tracks on one side and Honor Oak Crematorium and on the other Camberwell New Cemetery.
It is near some of South London’s busiest roads, but is itself quiet enough to see children playing in the road in the summer.
Grant’s first wife, Janet Watson, who divorced Delroy in 1979, has since told of his obsessive cleaning compulsions, his need to have everything tidy and his violent temper should things be found out of place or dirty.
He spent time in prison in 1991 for handling stolen goods and later had two children with a girlfriend in Leicester.
Delroy’s second wife, Jennifer Richards, suffered from multiple sclerosis and was wheelchair bound. He cared for her and their four children, two of their own and two from her previous marriage.
He would exercise regularly in his garage gym. He would also go out in the dark. Neighbours assumed he had a night job.
His first attack was in October 1992 in Shirley, Croydon. But there was then a four-year break before a spate of others.
In 1997, Grant returned with a string of attacks – sometimes five a week – in Coulsdon, Forest Hill, Catford, Brockley, Bromley, Beckenham, Dulwich and Sidcup.
This led to the creation of Operation Minstead in 1998.
Grant was preying on the elderly, targeting those who lived alone, breaking into their houses in the dead of night.
He may have watched his potential victims for some time because he never broke into a home of anyone but a lone elderly occupant.
He once targeted three houses in a single street. He picked detached or semi-detached houses and bungalows – never flats. He entered through open windows or by removing a window pane.
He would disconnect the lights in the house and cut the phone cables.
Grant would then approach them in their bedroom and shine a light into their eyes to wake them.
His victims, who were both men and women aged between 68 and 93, said he would kiss them on the cheek, take their pulse or engage in conversation with them for hours before violently raping them in their beds.
He often took money, but only small amounts. He also took credit cards and obtained PINs from his victims, but there has never been any record of him using them.
The suspect seemed to know about the care of frail people – how to support his elderly victim’s spine and how to pick them up from the elbow.
He had sometimes been shamed into leaving without committing a sexual assault when his victim chastised him. One made him apologise and leave by angrily demanding “What would your mother think of you?”
In a particularly violent attack on August 5, 1999, he raped his victim twice and left her bleeding from a perforated bowel, injuries which nearly proved fatal.
There was another long break. This prompted speculation the rapist had been imprisoned for an unrelated offence or died.
But on October 13, 2002, 10 years after the first attack, he struck again.
He left a vital clue – a foot print from a size 10 Nike Air Terra Contego trainer. Most importantly he left his DNA.
Seven confirmed attacks took place in the summer of 2003 before another gap.
Operation Minstead identified up to 21,000 possible suspects who fitted the DNA, thought to have originated in the Windwards Islands in the Caribbean.
Police asked for voluntary DNA samples for elimination purposes. Five people who refused were arrested but later released. But the list of suspects was reduced from 21,000 to 1,000.
A further series of confirmed attacks took place towards the end of 2008 and into 2009.
More than 100 attacks have been linked to the Night Stalker, but it is likely that there are more that were never reported.