Revealed: How fugitive child abuser was snared in international ‘cat and mouse’ game with police
- Credit: Suffolk Constabulary
He was guilty of one the most horrific cases of sexual abuse ever seen by police.
But few people know details of the long battle to bring elusive predator Julian Myerscough to justice and put him behind bars for 21 years.
Before being convicted of possessing indecent images of children in 2015, he fled Ipswich Crown Court and sparked what would become an international game of "cat and mouse".
As authorities fought a protracted legal battle to bring him back to the UK, three young women, who previously felt unable to make disclosures about his abuse, came forward to give interviews and help secure his extradition.
It led to a Europol Fugitive Search Team tracking him down - and to his eventual conviction for two counts of rape of a child under 13, four of indecent assault, four of sexual assault, and one count of causing a child unnecessary suffering, between 2001 and 2010.
Here, three senior investigators explain how a "detestable" predator was tracked down to Transylvania after he evaded justice for years.
'I knew his day would come - it was just a matter of when'
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DC Kate Bond first encountered the former University of East Anglia law lecturer in 2013 - three years after he was first jailed for possessing indecent images, having sacked his trial barrister and chosen to represent himself.
Before his first conviction in 2010, two of his victims were spoken to, but neither felt able to make disclosures about his abuse.
In 2013, another force referred DC Bond to allegations of abuse from Myerscough's third victim, and evidence he was still accessing indecent images, later found on devices at his Lowestoft address and his mother's home in Bolton.
One of the other girls was again spoken to, but felt unable to support the allegations.
Despite no further action being taken against him for physical abuse, Myerscough again went to trial for possessing indecent images, and again sacked his barrister to defend himself.
DC Bond said: "The memory of looking into that girl's eyes will stay with me for the rest of my life. I knew the day would come for Myerscough - it was just a matter of when."
'Cat and mouse' game begins
As the jury retired to consider its verdict in 2015, Myerscough left court, boarded a train at Ipswich station and disappeared.
"It was quite surreal," recalled DC Bond.
"The case was adjourned for lunch and Myerscough was told to retrieve his passport.
"He walked past me, walked back to pick up his briefcase and headed back out. At that point, the prosecutor and I thought he wasn't coming back, but until he failed to answer bail, we had no case for a warrant."
DC Bond went straight to the railway station, but Myerscough had boarded a train and was heading for Harwich International Port, where he was unable to board an overnight ferry without a passport.
He changed plans by crossing the country to take a foot ferry from Holyhead to Ireland.
"It was cat and mouse," said DC Bond.
"We had British Transport Police waiting at all stops but Myerscough swapped transport."
DCI David Henderson said it showed Myerscough's "utter contempt" for the justice system and his failure to accept guilt.
He said Myerscough would have been well aware of the time required to gain a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) when he made the journey overseas.
DI Simon Bridgland added: "He knew the writing was on the wall but refused to face up to it.
"Unfortunately, he had a couple of hours' head start on us."
Although Garda boarded the ferry, they could not send the boat back without jurisdiction, and Myerscough was a free man in Ireland for long enough to buy a plane ticket to Hungary, which was found in his jacket pocket when a warrant was finally executed at a Dublin hotel.
He thwarted extradition efforts with a series of appeals over two years, and was released from Irish prison in August 2017, when the High Court deemed that too much time had passed.
"He frustrated the extradition process to the point where he had to be released," said DC Bond.
It took six days for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to secure another EAW - giving Myesrcough time to board a plane for Budapest and disappear again.
At around the same time, DC Bond returned from leave to find a message saying the girl she had spoken to about Myerscough had made a disclosure and was prepared to give an interview.
Police had to choose between pursuing the original EAW and being unable to lay new abuse charges, or building enough evidence for a new application.
DI Bridgland said: "We had a decision to make; bring him back on the existing warrant, or continue the investigation.
"He had been sentenced to 42 months in his absence, but had served a considerable amount on remand, meaning that sentence could have been deemed served if he was arrested in Romania.
"We now had three girls on board and knew we could get the case to CPS charged standards."
DC Bond added: "There began a long process, given his complicated history, knowledge of the law, and that we had about 26 witnesses to interview around the country. It was an intense period, which began with meeting CPS in October 2017."
Tracking Myerscough down
At the beginning of 2018, police became aware of a close friendship between Myerscough and former cell mate, Peter Ashford, 66, a repeat sex offender from Wellington Esplanade, Lowestoft.
Police knew he was an associate of Myerscough, had visited him in Romania and had exchanged a number of "horrific and appalling" messages.
It allowed them to pin Myerscough down to a property in the remote commune of Cermei, Arad County, near the Hungarian border, where DC Bond believes he intended to move after expecting to be acquitted in 2015.
Ashford was later handed a suspended prison sentence for sending indecent messages and failing to comply with notification requirements for the sex offenders' register.
DI Bridgland said: "At this point, we knew where Myerscough was, and that he was unaware of the investigation.
"We knew Ashford was planning to go out again, so there was a risk of him getting wind of the investigation and letting the cat out of the bag, which would put us back to square one. But we finally got the charge agreed."
DCI Henderson added: "Until that point, he may not have thought we would go to those lengths for an indecent images conviction; that it wasn't in the public interest."
With two warrants in operation, a Europol Fugitive Active Search Team was mobilised to track Myerscough down. A day later, he was languishing in a Romanian jail.
Myerscough convinced the Romanian courts to adjourn his first extradition hearing to lodge an appeal, which was overruled by a judge, allowing officers trained in air-side recovery to meet authorities in Bucharest and complete the handover.
Back at Martlesham investigation centre, police seized a mobile phone among Myerscough's personal belongings. It was found to contain indecent images, including one implicating him as a 'contact' offender, leading to a request for the CPS to draw up a European Investigation Order, allowing officers to exercise domestic powers in a foreign jurisdiction.
By now, it was mid December, and police were given 11 days to conduct their investigations in Romania, where DI Bridgland, DC Bond and another detective constable arrived on December 16 and entered Myerscough's Cermei property.
There, DC Bond discovered the same surroundings pictured on Myerscough's seized phone a month earlier.
Information was passed to local authorities, and, police believe, helped inform Judge David Goodin's decision to label Myerscough a dangerous offender for the purposes of sentencing.
DI Bridgland said: "Myerscough tried to get the phone evidence kicked out. He argued we were fishing for new offences, but other messages effectively corroborated his contact with one of his victims under a false identity.
"He never admitted it was him in the photo, and even if it was, said there would be an innocent reason."
Facing justice at last
Myerscough was jailed for 21 years after being found guilty of two counts of rape of a child under 13, four counts of indecent assault, four charges of sexual assault, and one count of causing a child unnecessary suffering, between 2001 and 2010. DC Bond said: "He is one of the most detestable men I've ever met. I honestly thought his day would come.
"All three of his victims are incredible young women, who I have a sense of pride in meeting. Their struggle has been long, and each, at some point, expressed a wish to no longer be part of the investigation. It's horrifying to think what they went through."
On the day of Myerscough's sentencing, the court heard how each victim had been affected by his abuse.
A third of jurors returned to see him jailed, and to express their admiration of the victims and investigators outside court.
DCI Henderson, who was moved to tears by the victims' testimony, called the experience "unprecedented" in his career.