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04/13/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

London Cab Driver Convicted Of Drugging, Sexually Assaulting Passengers

A London taxi driver was found guilty today of drugging and sexually assaulting a string of women passengers.

John Worboys, 51, plied his victims with champagne laced with sedatives before pouncing on them in the back of his black cab.

The retired stripper told his victims he had won huge sums of cash at casinos and on the lottery and invited them to celebrate with him.

Worboys was found guilty of 19 charges of drugging and sexually assaulting 12 women passengers. In one case he raped his victim.

He was cleared of two counts of drugging women.

During the seven-week trial, the court in south London heard how Worboys preyed on women he picked up in London's West End and the wealthy Kensington district.

Prosecutors said the experienced licensed hackney cab driver targeted 14 women in total over 18 months until his arrest in February last year.

The jury was told details of his distinctive ruse to lure revellers into joining him for a glass of champagne in the back of his vehicle after parking in a side road.

Worboys cruised the streets late at night looking for women who had already been drinking to offer heavily discounted or even free lifts home.

He often told victims he lived in the same direction and was concerned they would be approached by illegal minicab drivers.

Once in the cab, Worboys spun them a story of how he had won money on the lottery or at a casino and showed them a carrier bag stuffed full of cash.

The cab driver then offered them a glass of champagne or other alcoholic drink to help him celebrate as he said it was his last fare of the night.

But the drinks were mixed with powerful sedatives that left his victims stupefied and powerless to stop him sexually assaulting them.

As the women succumbed to the drugs, Worboys would drive around in circles as he turned the conversation to sex, in some cases offering the women as much as £5,000 to perform sex acts.

The court heard many women were left with little memory of their ordeals and can only recall falling asleep in the back of the vehicle before waking up at home.

Some were left with flashbacks and vague memories of Worboys sitting beside them and adjusting their clothing.

One woman remembered being raped, a second woke up to find him with his hand up her skirt and a third said he exposed himself.

The cab driver kept a stash of miniature champagne bottles, as well as other drinks including wine, vodka, gin and whisky, in the passenger footwell.

He admitted lying to the women and offering them drinks but claimed he did it because he craved female attention in the wake of a series of failed relationships.

But police discovered a "rape kit", including gloves, alcohol, glasses, drugs, condoms and a sex toy concealed in a plastic bag in another vehicle at his home.

Detectives also found many journeys took considerably longer than necessary while women were left violently ill and some had traces of drugs in their blood.

The jury was told Worboys used plastic gloves and disposable cups to reduce the chances of leaving forensic traces on his victims.

One woman claimed he said: "You can't go and say that you have been raped because I always use a Durex."

Nevertheless, police were able to find his DNA on the bodies and clothes of two women.

His DNA and that of an alleged victim were also found on a vibrator, while traces of condom lubricant were found on another woman's underwear.

Some passengers said he behaved oddly and aggressively when they either poured the drink away or only sipped it because they were suspicious.

He shouted at one woman "you've really wasted my time tonight" as she ran from the cab.

Worboys, of Sovereign Crescent Rotherhithe, south east London, was found guilty of rape, attempted sexual assault, sexual assault and administering a substance with intent.

Worboys wept in the dock as he was convicted of one count of rape.

Mr Justice Penry-Davey addressed the defendant, saying: "You have heard already that I do not intend to sentence you today.

"I am putting the case back for a pre-sentencing report and also a psychiatric report. You must be under no illusion that this case requires and will get a very substantial term of imprisonment.

"You must not understand from my putting the case back that any more lenient course could be taken.

"It is important I know as much as possible about you before I decide what the appropriate sentence is going to be."

Friends of Worboys showed no emotion as the verdict was read out.

Mr Justice Penry-Davey thanked the seven woman, five man jury and said they could be exempt from jury service for the rest of their lives.

Sentencing was adjourned until 21 April.

Speaking outside Croydon Crown Court, Detective Inspector Dave Reid, who led the inquiry, praised the victims who gave evidence.

He said: "I want to say three things. First I want to praise the courage of every single one of the women who came forward to police during this inquiry. It's been a major inquiry for the Metropolitan Police.

"In particular I want to thank all 14 women who gave evidence in the Crown Court over the past eight weeks. Their bravery and integrity is beyond any doubt.

"There may be some women who have had experience of Mr Worboys and who have not yet reported that to the police and I would request they do so.

"We have set up a freephone which is 0800 121 4441. I would ask any woman who has not yet contacted us to do so."

Detectives believe Worboys could be one of Britain's most prolific sex attackers.

The jurors, who convicted the cabbie on the fifth day of deliberations, were not told that a total of 85 women have come forward to complain of being assaulted by him.

Investigators have opened a dedicated phone reporting line - 0800 121 4441 - for potential victims of the perverted former stripper and amateur porn star to contact.

Police believe Worboys may have been responsible for a handful of unsolved sex attacks reported over the four years before the taxi attacks.

Scotland Yard brought in colleagues in Dorset and Surrey when it emerged that Worboys had links to the counties.

Four women in the Bournemouth area contacted police with allegations of rape, sexual assault and kerb-crawling which have been linked to Worboys.

The wealthy cab driver owned a share in a holiday property in Poole which was used as a studio to record adult films.

Investigators also made media appeals in Surrey after it emerged that Worboys often visited relatives in the county but no women came forward.

A review is under way into the police investigation of Worboys, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) confirmed.

Worboys was arrested on July 26, 2007, after attacking a 19-year-old student but was released after being interviewed by police.

The inquiry was closed three months later despite toxicology tests which found traces of sedatives in her blood and CCTV evidence.

Police re-arrested Worboys in February 2008 and it is believed he attacked a further 30 women in the interim.

Deborah Glass, of the IPCC, said officers could face misconduct charges as a result of the review.

She said: "It is clearly concerning that despite the Metropolitan Police arresting Worboys in the summer of 2007, he went on to attack more women.

"The Metropolitan Police has already conducted a review into the investigation as a whole.

"There were, however, very specific concerns about the investigation into the July 2007 attack.

"As a result the IPCC will be examining the investigation and the issues that raises."

Read more at The Independent.

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