London

Elderly women 'targeted by violent sex attacker'

A man used "gratuitous" violence during sex attacks on disabled, elderly women in their homes, a court has been told.

Michael Roberts, 45, of no fixed address, selected vulnerable victims living alone so he would not be disturbed, Southwark Crown Court heard.

He is accused of attacking four women in south London in the late 1980s and 1990s.

Mr Roberts denies charges of rape, sexual and indecent assault, causing grievous bodily harm and burglary.

'Gratuitous violence'

Opening the case for the prosecution, Allison Hunter warned jurors the evidence they would hear was likely to fill them with "revulsion".

The court was told Mr Roberts had a substantial criminal record and began his string of attacks on older women at the age of 22.

Ms Hunter said the crimes he was being prosecuted for were connected by the "extent of gratuitous violence that was employed" and by the fact that each attack was committed at night.

His four alleged victims - aged between 57 and 83 at the time of the attacks - are not being named following a request from the judge.

One of his victims had advanced arthritis another was partially deaf, Ms Hunter said.

Outlining the factors which linked the offences, she said: "They were all single vulnerable victims who had difficulty walking, they all lived alone in ground-floor apartments.

"The knowledge demonstrated by the person who committed these offences, the state of loneliness and confidence that no-one would be returning to the premises, demonstrated that this attacker clearly knew their every move."

'Forensically aware'

Mr Roberts pounced on one of his victims as she was getting ready for bed, while another was letting her cat out when he crept into her home, jurors were told.

The court heard details about the nature of the attacks, which all took place yards from addresses where Mr Roberts had been living at the time.

One woman was found two days after an attack, lying on the floor bleeding, while another victim was so badly injured that her jaw was fractured in three places, the court heard.

Mr Roberts became more "forensically aware" as the attacks went on and began to wipe household items he had touched during the violent robberies, sometimes using a T-shirt to remove evidence, the court heard.

Detectives spotted similarities between his crimes and it soon became "abundantly clear" they were being carried out by the same person, Ms Hunter said.

Police recovered DNA following each burglary, but there was at the time no system in existence through which to run comparisons and identify the culprit, the jury heard.

News reports

Once a comprehensive database had been established, detectives were able to establish a link between DNA collected from some of the crime scenes and that of Mr Roberts, who was arrested in 2005 - some 15 years after the four assaults.

The court was told Mr Roberts had a series of previous convictions for burglary and assault and had also been violent towards two of his former partners.

Jurors were told following his final alleged burglary, during which prosecutors say he caused grievous bodily harm with intent, Mr Roberts returned to one of his former partners and confessed he had been the assailant.

The court heard that responding to news reports which inaccurately suggested a sexual attack had taken place on that occasion, the defendant allegedly told his then girlfriend: "I did that but I didn't rape her."

The trial continues.

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