UK major crime investigators assist Edinburgh police with enquiries into unsolved Balerno rape and Craiglockhart sex attack in August 2015

National major crime investigators are assisting police with their enquiries into a rape and a sexual assault carried out against two young women by the same person in southwest Edinburgh more than five years ago.

Thursday, 4th March 2021, 4:45 pm

It emerged this week that new DNA techniques have been used to link the two attacks, which happened three weeks apart in August 2015, and police are now appealing to people to cast their minds back and report any concerns they may have had about suspicious behaviour in someone they knew.

A 19-year-old woman was raped after a man claiming to have a knife forced her into a field beside Newmills Road in Balerno, at around 12.20am on Thursday, August 27 in 2015. Shortly before this, she had stepped off a bus in Lanark Road West.

It followed a sexual assault on a 21-year-old woman who was grabbed from behind in Craiglockhart Quadrant at about 10.30pm on Wednesday, August 5, She has also just got off a bus, this time in Colinton Road, before walking along Craiglockhart Park and turning into a street where her attacker struck.

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Police said the man responsible was not on either bus before the attacks.

Advancements in DNA technology have allowed forensic scientists to pick up more biological samples from evidence connected to these two cases, enabling detectives to create a full DNA profile which definitively shows that the same person is responsible for both.

The UK-wide National Crime Agency’s (NCA) Major Crime Investigative Support team is assisting police in Edinburgh with their enquiries into the attacks upon these women.

Detective Inspector Jon Pleasance, who is leading the investigation, said: “Because NCA is that UK wide resource, they can make links to similar investigations across the UK.

National major crime investigators are assisting police with their enquiries into a rape and a sexual assault carried out against two young women by the same person in southwest Edinburgh more than five years ago.

“For example, one tool they offer is being able to search for crimes and types of crimes and see how an offender has operated and what behaviours are like.

“We are looking for any similar behaviour of a stranger approaching a female before a sexual assault.”

When asked if this might involve strangers approaching young women shortly after they get off a bus in other parts of the UK, he said: “If she was thereafter raped and the offender shows similarity in behaviour, we would expect to have thorough analytical tools available.

“We have a really positive relationship with the NCA and we have been able to see their real value. They were involved in 2015 and gave us considerable input then, and since the review (in 2020) they have re-engaged.”

Review of the cases

DI Pleasance said the five year anniversary of the case in 2020 prompted a re-examination of evidence which led to using new forensic techniques which showed a definitive link between the cases.

He said police have also conducted new door-to-door inquiries and have reviewed CCTV footage in these areas.

DI Pleasance also said they have looked for a correlation with all other sexual assault offences throughout the summer of 2015 - but at the moment police believe only these two offences have been perpetrated by the same man.

Officers have also widened the scope of their enquiries to surrounding areas including Fife, the Lothians and Borders.

DI Pleasance reiterated his appeal to the public to come forward if there was someone you knew whose behaviour at the time seemed different or alarming, and if they could be unaccounted for during the periods of time when the attacks happened.

At the time, Edinburgh’s Festival Fringe was taking place and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo’s theme was East Meets West and marked the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

DI Pleasance believes they are looking for someone you “might least suspect” is responsible for such horrific offences.

He stressed that people should not dismiss any concerns they might have, no matter how small they might seem, as they now have a full DNA profile of the perpetrator and so can quickly and completely rule people out.

The suspect was described at the time as being a white male, in their 20s or 30s, of slim or athletic build, with slightly longer than average hair between their ears and shoulders.

Speaking to the Edinburgh Evening News on Tuesday, the victim of the Craiglockhart sexual assault said it would mean a great deal if someone could come forward with information which could lead to the capture of her attacker.

She stressed that her attack was “not a one off” and that it is in the public interest to find this person to make sure it does not happen again.

Ken Donnelly, from NCA Major Crime Investigative Support, said: "We have been working with the Police Scotland team investigating the attacks upon these women, assisting with bespoke specialist advice in particular lines of investigation.

“I would strongly encourage any member of the public to come forward in confidence with any information that might assist. Anything that allows us to effectively and discretely eliminate any individual from further investigation gets us one step closer to properly identifying a suspect.

“NCA's Major Crime Investigative Support team provides advice and support to police major crime investigations across the UK, through its team of specialist advisers."

DNA tests

Lead forensic scientist, Amanda Pirie, of the Scottish Police Authority, said previously that DNA 24 technology was used to retest samples taken from evidence recovered after the attacks on these women.

She said the tests used provide “twice as much information” on someone’s genetic profile compared to older DNA systems.

She also revealed that ‘crimelite’ technology was used in the review of the cases. This technique uses high intensity LED (light emitting diodes) light of varying wavelengths to reveal DNA traces.

This technology was used to prosecute Angus Sinclair of the World’s End murders which took place in 1977. It revealed that his DNA was on the ligatures used to strangle and tie up Helen Scott and Christine Eadie - and that he had sexual intercourse with them.

The DNA samples were found deep in the twists of the knotted ligatures and remained hidden from view for nearly 40 years.

In 2014, Sinclair was jailed for a minum of 37 years for the murder of the girls.

Ms Pirie did not say whether crimelite was necessarily used to reveal the samples which linked the attacks in August 2015, but confirmed it was used as a tool in the investigation.

Anyone with information should contact Police Scotland via 101 quoting incident number 0770 of 1 March, 2021, or pass tips anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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