David Bryant: 'Every parent's worst nightmare'
The detectives on the case feared the worst.
A five-year-old girl had been lured into a car and taken away. That was at 19:30. It was now past midnight and there was no clue about where she might have been taken.
Det Ch Insp Steve Binks, of Northumbria Police, said: "Experience tells us that in cases like this, we can be looking at a murder.
"And then at half past midnight, she turns up 50 miles away in Darlington. She was alive, but we were clearly dealing with a very dangerous man."
It was May 1995. The girl had been taken from the Blakelaw area of Newcastle and was found, wearing only a coat and shoes, by a taxi driver.
She told the taxi driver she had been helping a man look for his dog but, when interviewed by detectives, the full story came out.
'Even more frightening'
Four months later, the attacker struck again. This time the victim was four years old. But again, she had been taken from Newcastle and was found in Darlington.
Det Ch Insp Binks was then a detective sergeant working on the case.
"The second incident was even more frightening," he said.
"She was taken away in the evening and didn't turn up until half past one the following afternoon. Again, we thought we might be dealing with a murder."
Despite a reward of £27,000 put together by newspapers and local businesses, and extensive inquires, the trail went cold.
But as in an increasing number of these cases, science was catching up with the criminal.
The police in Northumbria had found DNA evidence and this had been placed with the National DNA Database.
And then in 2010 Hampshire detectives, on a cold case inquiry involving the abduction of a three-year-old girl who had been playing in her garden in Southampton, found DNA evidence from that crime which matched that obtained from the two Newcastle abductions.
Familial DNA searching
A fourth case, involving a sexual assault on a five-year-old girl in Gosport, Hampshire, could also be matched.
Mr Binks said: "What that meant was the same man had carried out all four assaults.
"And thanks to the Forensic Science Service, we would find out who that man was."
The crimes were eventually solved with the help of a technique developed in 2001 - familial DNA-searching.
The DNA retained from the crimes was fed into a computer to try to find potential relatives of the attacker whose DNA profiles were on the National Database. It would lead the police to the door of David Bryant at his home in Ulverston in Cumbria.
Bryant, who is 65 and a grandfather, initially denied the charges - four counts of kidnap and four of indecent assault. But, faced with the DNA evidence, he changed his plea to guilty.
Mr Binks said: "He is every parent's worst nightmare.
"We should also commend the way his victims have conducted themselves throughout this inquiry.
"It hasn't been easy for them and they deserve great credit."