Life in prison for man who raped woman in the 1980s

Justice finally caught up with Ian Harper, who raped a woman more than 30 years ago, when he was sen

Justice finally caught up with Ian Harper, who raped a woman more than 30 years ago, when he was sentenced to life in prison on Friday. - Credit: Archant

Justice has finally caught up with a man who raped a woman more than 30 years ago as he was sentenced to life in prison on Friday.

Ian Harper, formally known as Ian Harrison who is 57 years old and originally from Hertfordshire, appeared via video link to admit rape, burglary and indecent assault in connection with an incident which occurred in Peterborough on 16 July 1985.

On that day Harper went into the victim’s house as she awaited the return of her children from school. He was wearing a balaclava and threatened the woman, who was in her 30s at the time, holding the tip of a screwdriver to her throat. He demanded money before violently attacking her.

Harper, who is already serving an indeterminate sentence having been convicted of multiple rape and burglary offences in Hertfordshire in 1994, was given a life sentence for rape and 12 months to run concurrently for burglary and indecent assault.

Detective inspector Alan Page from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit who investigated the case and said: “Ian Harper is an evil man. He is one of the most dangerous sexual predators in the UK and to secure a further prison term against him will mean our communities are protected from him committing further offences.

“The attack on this victim was horrendous and has had an unimaginable impact on her and her family. I hope the sentence given to him will be of some small comfort to them 32 years on. I would like to pay tribute to the victim and her family for the bravery they have shown in engaging with the investigation, so many years after the offence occurred. This investigation shows we will continue to strive to bring offenders to justice no matter how long ago the offence occurred.”

Extensive inquiries had been made at the time of the offence to trace the offender however these proved negative.

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Harper was traced as part of work carried out under Operation Painter. The operation began a year ago to review undetected rapes and sexual offences which occurred in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire between 1974 and 1999. Working closely with a dedicated team of cold case review scientists at Eurofins Forensic Services, the Major Crime Unit are recovering evidence held in the National Forensic Archive for examination. DNA profiles obtained are then searched against the National DNA Database to identify potential offenders. Harper’s DNA was matched in January 2017.

Detective Chief Superintendent Mark Lay said: “A phenomenal amount of work has been undertaken in the last twelve months under Operation Painter and Ian Harper is the first offender to be charged and sentenced under the Operation.

“Understandably investigating historical sexual offences can bring many challenges including the difficulty around continuity of exhibits and tracing witnesses however, to secure a sentence against an evil predator such as this proves how important this work can be to bring closure for victims and ensure offenders are brought to justice”

At present, hundreds of crimes are being reviewed by the team and six are currently being investigated under Operation Painter.

DI Page continued: “Through advancements in DNA we’ve been able to review these cases and use advances in forensic science to bring offenders to justice. I want to send a clear message to offender’s even decades on, we can still trace you and will bring you to justice.

Harper was sentenced to life in prison at Peterborough Crown Court on Friday December 1.