Rapist jailed 25 years after Eastbourne attack

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A MAN who raped a woman near Eastbourne town centre 25 years ago was today beginning a five-year jail sentence.

It was only thanks to a Sussex Police cold case review that 48-year-old Graham David Wood was traced through DNA samples after he had raped a second woman in Eastbourne 12 months’ later.

Wood pleaded guilty at a hearing in August to raping and indecently assaulting a 20-year-old Eastbourne woman in an alley at The Goffs on Thursday, April 2, 1987. He was sentenced at Lewes Crown Court today.

The victim was walking home alone late that evening 25 years ago when she was attacked by Wood, a complete stranger, who forced her into a driveway off the road, threatened her, and raped her before running off.

A detailed police investigation was carried out, but despite taking forensic evidence at the time, no-one was arrested for the incident.

The rape was reported to police on the night and there was widespread media publicity at the time.

However, with recent advances in forensic investigation, particularly in the field of DNA, Sussex Police re-opened the investigation and in July last year Wood was arrested at his home in Rushden, Northamptonshire, by detectives from the Surrey and Sussex Police Major Crime Team. Wood was charged in September last year and he has been in custody since then.

Wood was convicted of a very similar rape in Eastbourne on March 27, 1988, when late at night he attacked and raped a local woman while she was walking her dog.

Police arrested Wood for that offence when he was later sentenced to ten years in prison havng pleaded guilty to the rape and also admitted two offences of assault with intent to rob, and one of robbery.

However, according to police, at that time there was no evidence to connect Wood to the 1987 rape since there was insufficient DNA material to be analysed at that time.

In 2010, police reviewed previous cases and linked the 1987 case with the nearby location of the 1988 rape. They re-examined the DNA from both cases and took a current swab from Wood which proved a match. Wood had not featured on the National DNA Database (NDNAD) as it had not been established until 1995.

In court today, Judge Brown praised Sussex Police for their determined efforts to reinvestigate and solve these cold cases.

He sentenced Wood to five years taking into account the 10 year sentence he had been given for previous offences in 1988.

Detective Chief Inspector Nick Sloan said; “The success of re-investigations like this is a tribute to the dedicated and professional work of our Crime Review Branch and many current and previous colleagues in the force, working with the CPS and our specialist forensic suppliers.

“This often unseen but crucial and painstaking effort can extend over months and years, but we have a duty to victims, and the wider public, to pursue all avenues of enquiry to help seek justice for them.

“We will always take every opportunity to follow up allegations of serious and violent crime, however long ago they occurred, to offer support to those affected and to see if there is evidence which can be put before the courts.”