Sex offender snared by DNA for Leeds rape in 1970s

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A prolific sex offender has been given a further life sentence for the rape 35 years ago of a Leeds school girl after a cold case review found his DNA.

Robert Sneddon was jailed for life in 1982 for a series of appalling attacks on young girls in Leeds and Bradford.

Leeds Crown Court heard Sneddon was still serving his original sentence but had reached an open prison with occasional day leave pending his ultimate release, when further forensic tests were carried out on evidence retained from two attacks in the two cities.

They proved he was responsible for two rapes at Soldier’s Field, Roundhay, and Bowling Cemetery, in Bradford.

Now 62, Sneddon admitted both rapes and was jailed for life with a minimum of eight years at Leeds Crown Court.

Judge James Spencer QC said it was part of a “campaign of rape” that was very likely to impact on any release date.

Sophie Drake prosecuting said the first attack was on July 10, 1979.

A 14-year-old girl was walking along Rooley Lane when Sneddon approached from behind and put his hand over her mouth.

He forced her into the cemetery and on to the ground in spite of her struggling against him.

When she continued to resist he hit her on the head twice before he raped her.

She said she never got over the attack which had affected her whole life.

Miss Drake said the 15-year-old girl was crossing Old Soldier’s Field, in Roundhay, on December 19 1979 when she saw a man walking along a path appear to stumble and he called her over to help him.

He grabbed her arm saying he needed help to walk along the path.

As they neared some changing rooms he was still holding her arm and limping and suggested she look for a stick he could use for support.

But once they got into bushes he grabbed her and put his hand over her mouth and told her if she made a noise he would break her neck.

After his attack she was frightened to be out on her own but had to go in the same area to get to school.

Miss Drake said after Sneddon was linked to the two attacks he was interviewed last year and said he had “warped thinking” at the time.

She said Sneddon was given life in 1982 for offences including the knifepoint rape of a 23-year-old woman in Roundhay Park, knifepoint sex assaults on three girls in Bramley, indecent assaults on two girls in Calverley, and the rape of another woman in Bradford as well as 13 other indecent assaults taken into consideration on girls under 16.

Kate Batty for Sneddon said he had served years in custody beyond the original tariff set for his life sentence and had addressed his offending behaviour during that time.

He had not admitted the attacks at the time because he was too ashamed.

After the case Detective Inspector Shaun Bartram of West Yorkshire Police’s Major Investigation Review Team said: “Sneddon is a prolific sex offender with an appalling catalogue of crimes against young woman.

“Today’s conviction demonstrates the determination of officers from Operation Recall, West Yorkshire Police’s specialist team who reinvestigate unsolved historic sexual offences, to bring offenders to justice and hopefully provide victims with some sense of closure.

“Sneddon was caught using advances forensic techniques to link him to two crimes which occurred 36 years ago.

“This case should again illustrate the passage of time is no barrier to justice and I hope today’s sentence will provide his two victims with some sense of comfort and reassurance.

“I would like to assure any person who has suffered such abuse that no matter when this happened West Yorkshire Police has specialist officers who will listen and investigate and do all we can to see offenders brought to justice.”

Kevin Hollinrake MP for Thirsk and Malton Picture: Anna Gowthorpe

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