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Desperate manhunt for SEQ serial rapist

Police investigate one of the eight sex attacks suspected to have been committed by the man dubbed the night stalker.
Police investigate one of the eight sex attacks suspected to have been committed by the man dubbed the night stalker. News Corp Australia

HE has been dubbed the night stalker.

In late 2015, as south east Queensland entered the first of its characteristically stifling warmer months, a predatory rapist seized the literal open windows of opportunity the summer months presented.

Between late November and March the following year, he chose the quiet darkness of the very late night or early morning to break into four homes, where inside, women he did not know were asleep and alone.

He then subjected each one to the stuff of nightmares.

They were not his first victims.

According to criminal profiler Wayne Petherick, they are also unlikely to be his last.

Despite the formation of a major criminal taskforce, Operation Melya, last year to investigate the man's string of sexual crimes, he remains on the loose.

As he has been since his first suspected attack on a woman in aged her 30s, on the Gold Coast on December 5, 2005.

Until last year, the man's decade of offending had been sporadic.

The summer of 2015/16 represented a dramatic escalation in the frequency of his attacks.

But as suddenly as he escalated, he stopped.

When police launched the public appeal to find him, the attacks ceased and his identity, one year on, remains a mystery.

When announcing the establishment of Operation Melya in April last year, Superintendent David Hutchinson said the same man was suspected of being behind eight strikingly similar attacks.

Six of them came on the northern Gold Coast, two more less than an hour away, in southern Brisbane and Logan.

Four had been conclusively tied to one man by DNA evidence, but in each of the eight cases identified, the rapist's modus operandi was terrifyingly similar.

Women, usually home alone, would either be woken by, or unexpectedly confront, an intruder.

After his first suspected attack in 2005, it would be three years before the man would rape again.

This time, there were two attacks, six months apart, in Southport and its neighbouring suburb, Coombabah, in 2008.

It would be seven years before the next one, also in Southport, in August 2015.

This attack, however, marked the beginning of the escalation in frequency.

Just three months later, he struck again, on November 26, the start of four almost monthly home invasions that ceased on March 28, 2016.

Criminal psychologist Dr Petherick, associate professor of criminology at Bond University, told news.com.au though the man had gone to ground, history shows that serial offenders who are not apprehended usually end up offending again.

"With these things, the best indicator of future behaviour is usually past behaviour," he said.

"It tends to be true. It would be unusual for someone who offenders so much and so frequently, to just stop."

Dr Petherick said there were a number of possible explanations as to why the rapes had stopped.

The man may be keeping a low profile, in the wake of the publicity that surrounded the announcement of Operation Melya, in a bid to not draw any further attention to himself.

He may also have left the Gold Coast area or found something else, such as a new relationship, that satisfied the urge that caused him to target women.

"It's educated guess work at the best of times," he said.

"What makes something serial is the general agreement of two or more events and over that time there is inevitably a cooling-off period, which is misleading because it implies a disconnect from the crimes, in which they effectively go back to their daily lives.

"But that is actually a requirement for a serial crime.

"It's possible this offender is cooling off somewhere, disconnecting from the crime, occupying themselves for a while public is on notice, also possible something entirely different, may have got themselves.

"It's possible he is in a relationship, satisfying the need that caused them to offend."

That too, he said, could explain the significant gaps between the offences.

Frighteningly, Dr Petherick said it was highly likely that during the active periods of his offending, the man was stalking a number of women, before finally attacking one.

The belief means there are probably a number of Queensland women who have no idea how close they came to being raped in their homes.

Dr Petherick said a umber of factors, including the lack of a weapons used, along with the obvious planning of his crimes and stalking his victims before attacking, indicated the offender was a "reassurance" type rapist.

As opposed to anger-motivated rapists, who often offend on impulse after a rejection or some other rage trigger, reassurance-motivated offenders often have low self-esteem and a twisted belief that their victims may pursue a relationship with them.

"The surveillance is a more a type thing where you are increasing your chances of success," he said.

"If there is surveillance, there would be multiple people targeted in advance and that leans toward reassurance oriented behaviours, where the offending is an attempt to address low self-esteem.

"In true reassurance oriented events, the offence is an attempt to establish a relationship.

"Their belief is, 'if they just get to know me, they will like me', that's the thinking.

"If you think about that, they target a large number of victims because they are trying to increase the odds of that happening."

Dr Petherick said it was highly likely the man was a regular person who few would suspect as capable of committing such repeated violent crimes.

"If you look at the history of serial offenders, many of them are very normal people," he said.

"Many have jobs, many have families, many go for very long times without offending.

"They often get away with what they do because, for all intents and purposes, they are outwardly normal.

"We like to compartmentalise criminals as different to us because that makes us feel different to them.

"We like to think they are not one of us, they are on the fringe of society but the reality is, the line between a non-criminal and criminal is very thin."

However, echoing the comments of Superintendent Hutchinson when announcing the taskforce last year, Dr Petherick said it was also highly likely someone either suspects the man of the crimes but does not want to believe it, or suspects there is something not quite right about him.

"Somebody out there has probably noticed someone but there's numerous examples where somebody knows who committed a crime but, for some reason, they don't feel comfortable coming forward," he said.

Investigators from Operation Melya declined to be interviewed when approached by news.com.au but said the investigation remained ongoing.

They also declined to comment on whether there had been any more suspected attacks since March 28, 2016.
When announcing the hunt, Superintendent Hutchinson said he believed a member of the public held the key to solving the crime.

"We have a large taskforce of detectives looking to identify this person, all we need is that one piece of information," he said.

"I'm sure there is a member of the public out there who will have some suspicions about a person and all we need is a name. It's all we need."

TIMELINE:

PINE RIDGE RD, RUNAWAY BAY
December 5, 2005: A woman in her 30s attacked about 9.30pm. Suspected to be the offender.

VICINITY OF PROUD AND CENTRAL STREETS, SOUTHPORT
March 29, 2008: A woman in her 60s attacked about 2.15am. Suspected to be the offender.

PINE RIDGE RD/HARBOUR QUAYS DRIVE, COOMBABAH
October 20, 2008: Man enters a woman's bedroom just after midnight and sexually assaults her. He escapes though a rear door. The woman was in her 50s at the time of the assault. Attacker confirmed with DNA.

EDMUND RICE DRIVE, SOUTHPORT
August 25, 2015: A woman aged in her 60s attacked about 3.30am. Suspected to be the offender. Police would not release further information.

BELINDA CRESCENT, SPRINGWOOD
November 26, 2015: Woman in her 60s disturbs an unknown man in the kitchen of her home just after midnight. The man restrains the woman and makes threats to sexually assault her. He releases the woman and flees through a screen door. Confirmed with DNA.

VICINITY OF ARCOONA AND KADINIA STREETS, SUNNYBANK
January 3, 2016: A woman in her 20s is asleep in her room when she is woken by an unknown man with his hands around her neck. The man sexually assaults the woman then flees. Confirmed with DNA.

EDMUND RICE DRIVE, SOUTHPORT
February 14, 2016: Around 3am, a man enters the bedroom of a woman in her 30s through the window and sexually assaulted her. Confirmed with DNA.

VICINITY OF CRESTWOOD DRIVE AND SUGARGUM COURT, MOLENDINAR
March 28, 2016: A teenage girl is attacked about 1.45am. Suspected to be the offender.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers, anonymously if they wish, on 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au

Topics:  gold coast police rapist

News Corp Australia

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