The Batman rapist is an English serial sex offender who has committed at least 17 attacks on women in the city of Bath, Somerset. He is the subject of Britain's longest–running serial rape investigation, codenamed Operation Eagle, and has eluded capture since 1991. Detective Inspector Paul James of Avon and Somerset Constabulary, leading the operation, said it is "one of the most complicated and protracted investigations" that the force has ever undertaken. He was nicknamed after leaving a baseball cap bearing a logo from the Batman film series at the scene of one attack. Police believe that there are more victims who have never come forward. The independent crime-fighting charity Crimestoppers UK have offered a £10,000 reward for information leading to his capture. He has also been referred to in the news media as the "Riddler".
Police say that the rapist has a detailed geographical knowledge of Bath and operates in "a specific hunting ground". All but one of his crimes have taken place in Bath, usually in the Bathwick area of the city, the exception being the abduction and rape of a 19-year-old woman in Kingswood, near Bristol in September 1996. His crimes usually take place during the darker winter months. He targets lone women who have just returned to their cars, abducting them at knifepoint before forcing them to drive to secluded areas in the south of the city where he then attacks them. He removes their underwear but then makes them put their tights back on which he rips during the rape. When he found one victim was not wearing tights, he ordered her to put on a pair he had brought with him. After raping his victim, he often forces them to drive back to the area where he abducted them. He has attacked women of all ages, and in May 2000 attempted to carjack a 26-year-old woman in Bath while her seven-year-old daughter was in the car.
In October 2000, to coincide with the end of British Summer Time, Avon and Somerset Constabulary delivered leaflets to 25,000 homes in Bath – the biggest leaflet drop in the history of British criminal investigation – asking women to complete a checklist about friends, acquaintances, neighbours or relatives who might fit the profile of:
- a white male;
- of slim or medium build;
- aged between 30 and 50;
- knows the Bath area well, and has some connection with Bristol, particularly the Kingswood area, and can drive a car;
- he has a tights fetish and he could get his sexual partner to wear tights which he may rip during intercourse;
- he sometimes wears a baseball cap;
- he has aroused suspicion with absences from home during the evening and early hours of the morning.
The rapist has long periods of apparent inactivity, including a three-year gap between October 1991 and November 1994, followed by a further two years of apparent inactivity until June 1996 Police suspect there have been other attacks during these lulls in activity, although a spokesman has said "Another possibility to explain the long gaps is that this is a man who comes to the area infrequently, possibly for work reasons." His attacks may also take place while the rapist is between relationships. His attacks are usually between 6pm and 8pm, "possibly on the way home from work", or between 1am and 3am, and he may have convictions for car crime "because of the ease with which he breaks into vehicles."
The case was highlighted on the BBC's Crimewatch program on 25 January 2000, including an appeal from Avon and Somerset Constabulary for information from the public. As a result of the appeal, six previously unknown victims came forward. Callers also gave the names of four potential suspects, including the son of a British diplomat, and "dozens of calls were received from prostitutes and partners of people with similar sexual habits". Police believe that he was deliberately taunting them by carrying out two attacks on the evening after the television programme was aired.
One theory considered by police was that the rapist had been in prison or away from the area while serving as a member of the armed forces, based on his inactivity between October 1991 and November 1994 and between February 1997 and January 1999. Detectives later learned that these periods coincided with dates when a diplomat's son, whose name had been given by a caller to Crimewatch, was out of the country living with his father. Although detectives visited the country where the father works to ascertain if similar attacks had occurred there, no further information has been forthcoming from the police.
In January 2001 the Forensic Science Service used the Low copy number (LCN) DNA profiling technique to isolate the rapist's DNA "fingerprint". They then began the process of taking swabs for comparison from all the men – believed to be around 2,000 individuals – whose names had come up during the course of the investigation.
Murder of Melanie Hall
Police investigating the abduction and murder of 25-year-old Melanie Hall who disappeared after a night out in Bath in June 1996 have not ruled out a connection with the rapist. He is known to have attempted to carjack a woman at knifepoint in the same area of the city a few hours before Hall was abducted, leaving his victim wounded when she fought back and managed to escape.
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