Rapist lives outside women's toilets

A COURT will this week decide whether to evict a convicted rapist who has parked his caravan just six feet from a women's public toilet in a picturesque Suffolk village.

James Mortlock

A COURT will this week decide whether to evict a convicted rapist who has parked his caravan just six feet from a women's public toilet in a picturesque Suffolk village.

Long Melford Parish Council is taking the action after Robert Johnson, who was found guilty of a horrific rape in 1992, moved on to land near the village green by the entrance to the public toilets.

Mr Johnson, now 44, was jailed for nine years in 1992 for raping a 23-year-old woman at knife-point in Witnesham, near Ipswich.

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He is reported to have moved his caravan around various locations in Long Melford since January - including the cemetery, prompting outrage from villagers - but has been living on a patch of land outside the conveniences since May.

Villagers are said to be frightened and intimidated by his presence, with many women avoiding the area.

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Parish council chairman Iain Wotherspoon said he hoped this week's legal action - at the county court in Bury St Edmunds - would mark the end of a “long saga” for the village, which was where hit TV series Lovejoy was filmed and was this year voted one of the top 10 most attractive places to live in the country.

Mr Wotherspoon said several members of the public had called the parish council worried about the situation.

“It's an inappropriate place for someone with a conviction of this nature to be camped - it's an inappropriate place for anyone.”

He said the council, which owns the land, had been working with Babergh District Council - which rents the site - to resolve the situation: “We have been working to get him housed and the district has made him offers of property in Hadleigh, which he has turned down.”

The chairman said the parish would now have to stump up more than £500 to apply to have him evicted: “We will be seeking to legally remove him from that place. People are disturbed by his presence.”

Mr Wotherspoon said several other landowners had been forced to take legal action to have the convicted rapist moved on and he was hoping an eviction this week would not result in Mr Johnson pitching up somewhere else in the village.

Mr Johnson is on the sex offenders' register and has to comply with various conditions, including informing the police of his whereabouts.

Last night a spokesman for Suffolk police said officers were liaising with Babergh District Council and the community of Long Melford.

Richard Kemp, district and parish councillor, said people were avoiding the toilets: “People feel frightened and rightly so. They are frightened to go anywhere near the toilets.”

In 1992 a court heard how Mr Johnson, who at the time was living in Ranelagh Road, Ipswich, lured his victim to an isolated barn by placing an advert at a JobCentre for a made-up horse groom position. Ipswich Crown Court was told how he produced a pair of red knickers and a pornographic magazine, before raping her with a knife at her throat and then laughing before leaving the area.

Sentencing him at the time, Judge John Turner called it a “really terrible rape”.

The EADT knocked on the door of the caravan last night but there was no-answer and Mr Johnson could not be contacted for comment.

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