Man jailed for 29 years for offences committed 30 years ago - Berkhamsted

27/03/2015

A man appeared at St Albans Crown Court today, Friday, 27 March 2015, and was jailed for 29 years after being found guilty of knifepoint sexual assaults in Berkhamsted 30 years ago.

Paul Drinkwater, aged 52, of no fixed address in Maidenhead was found guilty by a jury on 19 December 2014, of two counts of rape, two counts of robbery and an indecent assault. Two counts of having an offensive weapon will lie on file.

He was sentenced as follows:

  • 14 years imprisonment for each count of rape to run consecutively
  • One year imprisonment for the indecent assault to run consecutively
  • Four years imprisonment for each count of robbery to run concurrently.

During the trial, the court heard how the first victim, a 15-year-old girl, was targeted on the evening of Sunday, 25 November 1984. She was followed by a man who was wearing a balaclava. He grabbed her from behind, dragged her from the street, raped her at knifepoint and stole property from her.

Three weeks later, on 15 December 1984, a masked man approached two 18-year-old girls from behind. He was brandishing a knife and made threats to the victims before he raped and punched one of them and indecently assaulted the other.  He also stole property from them.

Extensive investigations were carried out at the time, which included appeals locally and nationally on Crimewatch. As part of these investigations Paul Drinkwater, who was living in Berkhamsted, was interviewed by police in February 1985, but not charged.

It was a review, which began in April 2012, by the Major Crime Unit Cold Case Review Team, along with advances in DNA which led to him being re-arrested and subsequently charged.

Adrian Foster, Chief Crown Prosecutor of Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: "This case involved the knife point rape and indecent assault of three teenage girls during two separate incidents in Berkhamsted in 1984.

"Paul Drinkwater wore a balaclava and brandished a knife when he committed the offences.  Not only did he subject the girls to the most terrifying ordeal, he then stole from them before making his escape.  These were planned, targeted and violent stranger rapes. Drinkwater is clearly an extremely ruthless, predatory and dangerous man.

"Drinkwater was first interviewed by police in 1985 in connection with these incidents.  However, as he had disguised himself with a balaclava, the girls were not able to identify their attacker and he was released.

"We have worked closely with the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Cold Case Review Team and it is extremely pleasing that they were able to identify Drinkwater as the offender for these terrible crimes due to scientific developments and advances in DNA analysis.  The new and compelling forensic evidence gathered by the police and presented by the CPS was so strong that the jury found Drinkwater guilty of the offences despite his denials.

"This case highlights that both the police and the CPS are committed to detecting unsolved cases and that survivors should never give up hope.  We work tirelessly to review cold cases and wherever possible bring those responsible to justice.  The outcome also demonstrates to people who commit such offences that they are never safe from justice and that our determination to ensure that justice is done remains undimmed, even years after offences are committed.

"This prosecution would not have been possible without the courage of the victims who were willing to support proceedings.  Time has not diminished the effect these incidents have had on their lives; they have waited 30 long years for today's result.  I hope that today's conviction and sentence will offer some comfort to them after all these years.  Our thoughts are very much with them all at this time."

Detective Inspector Pushpa Guild from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit led the investigation and said: "I am sure that Paul Drinkwater thought he would never face justice and I am pleased that he has been handed a significant sentence to reflect the seriousness of the offences he has committed.

"I would like to thank the victims of these truly horrendous crimes for their bravery and courage in supporting the prosecution. Not only were they victims of such terrifying attacks decades ago, they have had to relive what happened to them. I hope that knowing this dangerous man will be behind bars for some time will be at least some comfort to them.

"Cases such as these, where no charges are brought initially, are never closed and I would like to reassure other victims that we will regularly review such investigations and apply any new or advanced forensic techniques available to us now when possible.

"Finally, I would like to thank all of the officers and staff from across the Major Crime Unit and colleagues in Scientific Services, who were involved in the case for their hard work and determination in bringing this case to court.  Everyone involved has played a key role, particularly in relation to techniques around forensic science and expert evidence."

Passing sentence, Judge Marie Catterson told Drinkwater: "These were horrific and dreadful crimes, which have had a profound and continuing harmful effect on your victims."

One of the victims, now in her late 40s, was at court to see Drinkwater sentenced.  She said: "I feel like I have finally been let out of prison today.  I can get my life back.  He's got a year for every year I have had to suffer since that dreadful night."