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Serial rapist Joseph McCann given 33 life sentences

Joseph McCann

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Met Police

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Joseph McCann was found guilty of 37 offences against 11 victims

A serial rapist who carried out a string of sex attacks on 11 women and children across England has been given 33 life sentences.

Joseph McCann’s victims were aged between 11 and 71 and included three women who were abducted off the street at knifepoint and repeatedly raped.

He was found guilty of 37 offences at the Old Bailey on Friday.

Mr Justice Edis said McCann, who must serve a minimum of 30 years, was “a threat to children” and “a paedophile”.

The judge described him as a “classic psychopath” and called for an “independent and systematic” investigation into why “the system failed to protect” McCann’s victims.

The convicted burglar had been released from prison following a probation error in February before he embarked on a cocaine and vodka-fuelled rampage.

The 34-year-old’s “spree of sex attacks” started in Watford in April before he moved to London, Greater Manchester and Cheshire over a two-week period.

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Media captionJoseph McCann arrested up a tree in Cheshire

Sentencing McCann at the Old Bailey, Mr Justice Edis described him as “a coward, a violent bully and a paedophile”.

He said his victims would probably “never properly recover”, adding: “This was a campaign of rape, violence and abduction of a kind which I have never seen or heard of before.”

Vodka bottle

On 21 April, McCann grabbed a 21-year-old woman at knifepoint as she walked home from a nightclub in Watford and took her to a house where he raped her.

Four days later, a 25-year-old woman was abducted as she walked home in Walthamstow, east London, just after midnight. She was then repeatedly raped in a number of locations over 14 hours.

Later the same day, he snatched a 21-year-old woman in Edgware, north London, as she walked along the street with her sister.

The pair finally managed to escape when McCann drove to Watford, where he had booked a hotel room, and one of them hit him over the head with a vodka bottle before they fled to get help.

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Met Police

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McCann was filmed on CCTV at a Watford hotel where he had booked a room for two nights

In the early hours of 5 May, McCann tricked his way into the home of a woman he had met in a bar in Greater Manchester.

Once inside, he tied her to a bed and molested her 11-year-old son and 17-year-old daughter, telling them: “You are going to Europe tomorrow – you are mine.”

The girl, who said she feared becoming a sex slave, managed to escape by jumping naked from a window, and she alerted police.

McCann then abducted and raped a 71-year-old woman and sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl he had taken from the street.

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Media captionFootage shows dramatic Joseph McCann police chase

On 5 May, McCann abducted two 14-year-old girls after threatening to “chop them up with a machete”.

After crashing his car when a patrol vehicle gave chase, a police helicopter finally located him up a tree. He was coaxed down and arrested early on 6 May.

In a victim impact statement, the 25-year-old woman who was subjected to a 14-hour ordeal spoke about how she deeply traumatised she is.

She said she was paying for her own therapy because there was an eight-month to one-year wait for NHS treatment and criticised the “under-resourcing” of services for survivors.

Three days after delivering their guilty verdicts, the 12 jurors returned to the Old Bailey for sentencing.

They didn’t have to be in court but they clearly wanted to see the conclusion of a most traumatic case.

Two of McCann’s victims, a teenage girl and her mother, were also present, having travelled to London from the north-west of England.

The teenager, who in May had jumped naked from a first-floor window to bring her ordeal to an end and save her mother and younger brother, was praised by the judge for her courage, as he added some personal observations after the formal sentencing process had ended.

Mr Justice Edis said he’d read statements from all the victims about the impact of McCann’s campaign of sexual violence and wished them all well.

“I hope that things turn out for them as well as we all hope they will, rather than as we fear they might,” the judge said, surely echoing the thoughts and feelings of everyone at today’s hearing.

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PA Media

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McCann was filmed at a McDonald’s while one of his victims was in the car

The court heard that McCann had 10 meetings with probation officers following his release in February, and his last meeting with an officer in Watford took place three days before the sex attacks began.

McCann was served with a warning letter because he had failed to inform authorities of a new relationship, in breach of his licence conditions.

The officer wrote that McCann was “not happy” about this and thought he was being treated unfairly, the court heard.

Regarding his two-week engagement, McCann explained that “if you get with someone in the travelling community then you marry them”.

The officer revealed that when the woman’s parents found out about the licence condition, they broke off the relationship because they thought he was a sex offender.

McCann, who had addresses in Aylesbury and Harrow, refused to attend his Old Bailey trial and hid under a prison blanket rather than give evidence.

He also failed to attend his sentencing, citing a “bad back”.

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