Ipswich: 1987 rape victim: “My long wait for justice shows why survivors must never give up”

IPSWICH: A woman who was brutally raped nearly 25 years ago today urged other victims of crime never to give up hope after finally seeing her attacker brought to justice.

Speaking after 52-year-old Phil Collins was jailed for 13 years and six months, the victim, who is now in her 50s, said: “I have waited two thirds of my adult life for this outcome. I had given up hope of ever seeing justice. My case highlights to other survivors never to give up.”

The woman, who was 29 when she was attacked in March 1987, had been alone in her home near Christchurch Park, in Ipswich when Collins, who was wearing a mask, broke in through a downstairs window and raped her.

After the attack a fingerprint was recovered from the scene but despite a thorough police investigation her attacker was not identified.

However, in January last year Collins was jailed for ten years for the brutal rape of a 17-year-old girl in the town’s Gippeswyk Park in 1990 and following media reports of that case the husband of the 29-year-old victim had contacted the police and pointed out similarities with the attack on his wife.

That file was recovered from police archives and subjected to a cold case review during which the fingerprint was found to match one of Collins’ prints, said Stephen Spence, prosecuting.

In December last year police officers interviewed Collins about the attack but he declined to answer any questions.

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He was subsequently charged with rape and indecent assault and was due to go on trial at Ipswich Crown Court later this month after denying the offences. However, yesterday Collins, formerly of Dickens Road, Ipswich changed his pleas to both offences to guilty.

Jailing him for 13-and-a-half-years, to run concurrently with his present sentence, Judge John Devaux said he did not consider Collins to be a risk to public safety as his lifestyle had completely changed in recent years.

He said a mitigating factor was Collins’ apology made in court though his barrister Martyn Levett to the current victim and the victim of the Gippeswyk Park rape.

Mr Spence told the court that on March 2 1987, the victim was alone at home. She had invited a friend round for dinner and was in her kitchen at around 8.15pm when she heard a noise which she thought was her friend arriving.

She carried on cooking but then saw a masked man enter the kitchen. He told her “Don’t make any trouble and you’ll be alright” and had moved quickly towards her and put something over the front of her neck while standing behind her.

She was then taken to a study where he ordered her to remove her clothes before raping her and forcing her to perform a sex act on him, said Mr Spence.

Afterwards the woman had tried to run away but Collins had caught up with her and pushed her to the floor.

The following day a park keeper found a pair of tights, which Collins had used as a mask, and two gloves, one of which had a hole on the middle finger which was found to match the middle finger print left by Collins at the victim’s house.

Martyn Levett, for Collins, said that from the mid 1990s until his conviction last year Collins had been in a relationship and had three young children.

After his conviction last year he had suffered “wholesale rejection” by his family and people who knew him.

Mr Levett said Collins had no recollection of the attack and added: “His plea of guilty comes with an apology to any complainant he has encountered.

“His plea of guilty will be acknowledged by him and them as some form of contrition.”

After the case, Detective Inspector Kevin Hayward said: “It is extremely pleasing to know that we have identified the offender for this horrific attack within the victim’s own home.

“This is due to the help of the public along with our commitment to detecting unsolved crimes and the excellent work of our fingerprint department.”

PREDATOR Phil Collins was the prime suspect for a third rape which occurred in Ipswich before the attacks in Gippeswyk Park and at the house near Christchurch Park.

Although he was never charged Collins was arrested for the rape of a woman 25 years ago.

The attack occurred when the 41-year-old victim was grabbed from behind in Chesterton Close in September 1986. Before Collins’s conviction for the Gippeswyk Park rape, he already had a history of less serious sexual offences.

He was convicted for flashing at a 22-year-old woman in Stone Lodge Lane in 1994. Collins invited the woman to perform a sex act on him saying “come here darling”. It was a similar chilling greeting to that given to the Gippeswyk Park victim when he confronted her with a knife and said “hello darling”.

On July 9, 1995, he entered a rear garden in Peterhouse Close at 2am and looked through the window of a property to attract the attention of what he thought was a lone female.

However, her boyfriend was inside. He went out and detained Collins, who was charged with causing harassment, alarm or distress.

Later in 1995 he was convicted of disorderly behaviour after exposing himself through the windows of properties in Peterhouse Close.