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An investigation by detectives from Hampshire Constabulary’s Major Crime Department, Scientific Services and Isle of Wight CID led to a man being sentenced at Portsmouth Crown Court today (Friday, March 19, 2010) to eight years in prison for an historical rape in 1990.
A jury returned a guilty verdict on Keith Davison, aged 52, of Binstead Hill, Ryde, Isle of Wight after a week-long trial at Portsmouth Crown Court in January 2010. During the evening of Saturday, August 4, 1990, a 24-year-old woman had been working at a fast food outlet in Ryde. She finished work around midnight and started to walk home along the town’s seafront by herself.
The woman became aware of a man who she thought was following her. This man approached her from behind and placed his T-shirt over her head. He threatened to hurt the woman if she did not comply. The man pulled her down a grass bank on Ryde seafront and raped her.
Advancements in technology and science enabled samples from material found at the original crime scene to be used to produce DNA profiles. In 2004, Hampshire Constabulary’s Major Crime Department began a new inquiry as part of Operation Alveston, a series of investigations into a number of ‘cold case’ rapes.
Familial DNA searching was a technique used in this case by the Forensic Science Service (FSS). It is based on the fact that individuals who are related are more likely to have similar DNA profiles. The trial heard how DNA obtained from Keith Davison’s daughter when she was arrested for an unrelated crime produced a possible link to DNA taken from the scene of the rape in 1990.
A voluntary DNA mouth swab sample was later obtained from Keith Davison in 2008. This sample matched the DNA profile of material taken from the crime scene in 1990. The chance of obtaining a match from a person taken at random from the general population is in the order of one in one billion.
Detective Sergeant David Pilbeam of Isle of Wight CID, who was part of the cold case investigation team, said: “Rape is a terrible crime that can have a lasting psychological effect. Police are able to apply the continued advances in forensics technology to our cold cases, and we will never give up on rape offences until we bring those responsible to justice.”
Doctor Colin Dark from the Forensic Science Service said: "The FSS is delighted to have been able to assist Hampshire Constabulary with this inquiry. Advances in DNA technology allowed us to revisit material retained from the original investigation and use familial searching to provide officers with a new avenue to investigate. The meticulous scientific work undertaken by the FSS, together with the determination of Hampshire Constabulary has resulted in justice for the victim.”
Ann Smout, Crown Advocate for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Hampshire & Isle of Wight said: “The DNA evidence helped to build a very strong case against Mr Davison. It supported the account of the victim and that of a witness who provided a statement at the time. The conviction is testament to the bravery of the victim who immediately reported the rape and has supported this prosecution despite the time that has passed. It must have been very difficult to relive the ordeal, but we hope that the case brings her some closure and shows that people can be brought to justice no matter how much time has passed."
Speaking after the verdict in January, the rape survivor said: “I’m relieved there was a guilty verdict, but saddened that this case has affected other innocent people. I would like to thank family, friends and the police for their continued support. I’m very happy with how this new investigation has been handled since 2004. I hope my experience can encourage more victims to have the confidence to report rape offences. If the police had not collected and stored the DNA, we would not be here today with a conviction.”
A new dedicated rape investigation team has been set up to review more unsolved rape and serious sexual offences across Hampshire and Isle of Wight. Ten experienced investigators make up the team, codenamed Operation Galaxy, and are responsible for reviewing and re-investigating unsolved rape and serious sexual assault cases from the past.
Leading the investigation team, Detective Inspector Pete Swan said: “Operation Galaxy provides us with a unique opportunity to progress previously unsolved rape cases and complements the wider work being undertaken across the force to improve our response to these serious crimes. We are using the latest developments in forensic science and DNA technology to revisit these cases and bring those responsible to justice. We will use every investigative tool available to us to track down offenders and solve cases. We are working closely with the new CPS Rape and Serious Sexual Offence Unit in order to ensure these cases are managed effectively and in the best interests of victims from the outset.”