The case of the serial teen sex attacker who terrorised school girls in Thornton Heath before stabbing two 15-year-olds as they walked to school has shocked the community.
Questions are being asked about the lack of community awareness around the sexual attacks on the young girls, which saw the boy who preyed on four 13-year-old’s during a 12 month campaign, evade capture despite the similar pattern of the crimes taking place near to where he lived.
With each attack the level of violence escalated and in September last year the 15-year-old boy shockingly sexually assaulted a 13-year-old trying, to remove her underwear in front of her mother after punching the woman in the face in Whitehorse Lane.
It was only when he carried out two knife attacks within days of each, all in the same neighbouring streets, that detectives flooded the area looking for CCTV and witnesses and he was arrested two days later.
North Croydon MP Steve Reed said he would raise the case with the police adding: “I share everyone else’s shock at what’s gone on and that the police were not able to intervene earlier.”
The disturbing details of the offences unfolded in Croydon Crown Court as the boy, who can not be named for legal reasons, admitted one count of assault by penetration, four counts of sexual assault, two counts of causing grievous bodily harm with intent and one count of common assault.
He entered the guilty pleas shortly before his trial was due to start and was remanded in custody ahead of sentence on June 7.
It wasn’t until his arrest that it emerged that he had carried out a string of sexual assaults stalking the majority of the victims, aged 13, as they walked to school.
The teenage boy’s guilty pleas said Tamar Nwafor, an advocate for black survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence: “.. will save the victims, who were all innocent girls on their way to school, from having to go through the gut-wrenching ordeal of being dragged through the court system and publicly reliving this horrific nightmare.She added: “It is extremely disappointing to see how long it took the police to get to this point, especially when considering the concerns of local women and girls. I question whether quicker actions, including better reporting and investigating would’ve prevented more school girls from being attacked and sexually assaulted in our local Thornton Heath area and the wider Croydon Borough.”
The teenager’s parents made a failed attempt to secure bail for him at the first hearing, claiming they usually monitored him at all times and always escorted him to and from his school.
The court heard the boy was attacked with a pool queue in custody, after a detention officer revealed the allegations against him to other detainees.
His offending began on November 21 when he grabbed a 13-year-old girl on her way to school on Norfolk Road at 6.50am and dragged her along the road, sexually assaulting the victim. The last attack happened just minutes from the first on St Paul’s Road when he stabbed a 15-year-old girl in the arm through her school blazer.
It took three months after the first November 2019 attack for the Met’s Operation Sapphire to release a public appeal with CCTV of the suspect in February 2020. Officers from the serious sexual assault investigation unit had leafleted houses near to the attack appealing for witnesses but over a month after the assault.
The Chronicle understands the first victim had subsequently encountered her attacker in area.
Following the mother and daughter attack, on October 6, he again targeted a 13-year-old girl who was walking to school. As she turned in to an alley, she noticed someone behind her. The teenage boy proceeded to jump on her, push her down the stairs before pulling out the knife, telling her to give her phone to him.
She handed over her phone and headphones but gave them back and pushed her against a wall gripping her shirt before touching her chest and attempting to kiss her before she managed to push him away.
The last and fourth sexual assault again on a 13-year-old girl happened on October 13.Three weeks later he carried out the first of two violent stabbings randomly targeting two 15-year-old girls walking to school.
He knifed the first girl in the thigh from behind at 8:50am on November 4 on Moffat Road leaving her needing stitches.
Mr Seetal said a girl was making her way to school with friends on 4 November when she was followed by the boy. He struck again nearby in an almost identical attack on St Paul’s Road, stabbing a girl, at around 8:23am on November 6.
Mr Seetal added the offences ‘all convey some form of sexual undertone to them and show a nature of violence.’
It was only after they had a suspect in custody that Croydon’s Violent Suppression unit along with schools officers, youth engagement team carried out reassurance and crime prevention patrols in Thornton Heath.
The Chronicle contacted the Met for a comment on the investigation..
The tragic murder of Sarah Everard saw national calls for action on the issue of women’s safety but there has been an absence of the voices and experiences of women from diverse backgrounds in the discussion. Croydon BME-led organisations have set up a petition calling for all investigations involving black, brown and migrant women and girls to be equal on www.change.org