Tuesday 17 November 2009

The Night Stalker’s face

The Metropolitan Police have just completed their longest ever hunt for a rapist, who attacked an estimated 200 elderly Londoners for over 17 terrorising years. An accomplished burglar, he staked out their houses to be sure they were alone, cut the telephone and lights, and broke in at night to shine a flashlight in their faces as they slept. Among the elderly women there were also 10 elderly men. He severely traumatised his victims over several hours, and also tried to form a relationship with them, pretending to be solicitous and friendly. He never left a fingerprint, but there were many sperm samples, from which it was possible to determine his DNA profile.

Gerontophilia is the technical and refined name for the condition, but it hides a lack of proper understanding as to why a man should be drawn to have sex with women who are past reproductive age. Leaving aside many fanciful theories, one can at least surmise that the individual has a distorted and probably delusional idea about the elderly, and about human relationships in general.

Who were the police searching for? The police photofit, released to the public during the hunt, showed a fine featured, apparently white man in a balaclava. If they were searching for such a person then it becomes less puzzling why he evaded capture for 17 years. By 2008 he was being described in The Times as having “light black skin”. It turns out the police took 3000 DNA swabs from “persons of interest” of whom many if not all were black men. Why this discrepancy?

UK crime reporting follows certain rules, intended to improve race relations. The race of a perpetrator, although known to the victim, and often to witnesses, is rarely mentioned. Given that racial minorities constitute roughly 8% of the population, knowing the race of the assailant reduces the suspect pool by at least 92%. It is slightly more than that, because the 8% contains different racial groups. Police had worked out from his DNA that the rapist was a black man from the Windward Islands, and were collecting voluntary DNA swabs, often encountering protests on the basis of racial discrimination.

What race was the perpetrator? The story was covered BBC TV News but nothing about the alleged perpetrator’s appearance was mentioned. This leaves the viewer in a confused state. Naturally, they want to see the face of the person who has committed these acts. They will have to wait for the trial. Only afterwards will we be able to discuss whether the search for this rapist was impeded by not being able to tell the public, very plainly, what he looked like in terms of his racial background, and gaining full cooperation in the volunteering of DNA swabs from people similar to him in terms of age, height and, yes, racial origins.

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