Rapist was prime suspect for 1986 attack

BRUTAL rapist Phil Collins was the prime suspect for another attack which occurred in Ipswich 24 years ago.

BRUTAL rapist Phil Collins was the prime suspect for another attack which occurred in Ipswich 24 years ago.

Although the 50-year-old was never charged, he was also arrested for the rape of a woman after she was grabbed from behind near woodland in Chesterton Close, Ipswich in September 1986.

However, detectives who arrested him at 4.55am on July 15 last year for that attack and the one in Gippeswyk Park in 1990, only charged him for the latter rape. There was not enough evidence to pursue a prosecution for the earlier one.

His sexual offending showed he did not stray far from his then home in Heatherhayes. Even when he moved around nine years later it was only to Dickens Road, which was still only a short distance from Gippeswyk Park and the scene of other incidents.

Collins had also been convicted for exposing himself to a 22-year-old woman in Stone Lodge Lane in 1994.

He invited the women to perform a sex act on him saying "come here darling”. It was a similar chilling greeting to the one he gave to his rape victim in 1990 when he confronted her with a knife and said “hello darling”.

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A year after the Stone Lodge Lane incident, on July 9, 1995, Collins also entered a rear garden in Peterhouse Close at 2am and looked through the window to attract the attention of what he through was a lone female.

But she was not alone. Her boyfriend was there at the time. He went outside and detained Collins, who was charged with causing harassment, alarm or distress.

A week earlier, July 2, someone entered the woman's house early in the morning and carried out a sex act. The woman was not assaulted in any way.

Later that year Collins was convicted of disorderly behaviour after exposing himself through the windows of residents' properties in Peterhouse Close.

When police questioned Collins for the Gippeswyk Park rape he claimed he had suffered from memory loss since a heart operation five years ago and did not remember as far back as 1990.

Collins also said he did not recall his statement to police when they spoke to him in that year.

Collins, however, did remember giving a blood sample to Essex police on an unrelated matter.

In the early 1990s Collins was arrested twice for thefts from shops.

The first time as in July 1992 when he was accused of stealing property from QD stores in St Matthew's Street. Eight months later, in March 1993, he was arrested for a theft at Sainsbury's in Upper Brook Street.

He was also convicted of actual bodily harm and dishonesty in the 1980s.

COLLINS had previous surnames before changing it to that of the famous singer and actor.

He had been known as Holland or Hollands, but he changed it to Collins as it appealed to his sense of humour.

Collins had been living in Dickens Road for nine years with his partner and their young family before he was arrested last July.

He and his girlfriend at the time had been together for around 16 years.

Before that he lived with another partner in Heatherhayes, around 1,500 yards and 16 minutes walk away from the Gippeswyk Park attack on January 14, 1990.

Collins was among a large number of people questioned after the rape. He gave police an alibi for his movements using a neighbour to confirm he was at home at 8pm that night and his ex-partner to say he was there at 9pm.

Significantly Collins could not account for where he was between 8.15pm and 8.45pm.

Although he spoken to as part of the police investigation, he was not one of around 200 men who gave blood samples as part of the inquiry.

Collins, who was never arrested at the time, refused to do so.

He has been a familiar face around Ipswich over the past 20 years. An avid West Ham fan and devotee of American Football, Collins played local football as a goalkeeper for Sunday League side Albion Mills in the mid 1990s.

He also enjoyed a drink and game of darts at the Labour Club in Ipswich's Silent Street, where he had been a member for around three-and-a-half years prior to his arrest.

Barry Fulcher, secretary of the club, said Collins came across as someone who could be difficult, sometimes butting into conversations he was not part of to correct people or challenge what they had said.

Mr Fulcher said: “He was harmless, but could just be a bit awkward. If people opened a window in the summer, he would close it.

“If someone said something was about 3ft, he would say it was about 3ft 6in.”

“If there was a discussion between two or three people, he would upset the discussion and make it into an argument, but it wouldn't be anything serious.”

Collins was arrested at Cooper's BMW showroom in West End Road where he worked as a cleaner.

At the time of the 1990 rape he was working for Schlumberger when it was in Felixstowe. He also worked for at least one double glazing company in Ipswich in the early 1990s.

Collins was a familiar face in amusement arcades in the town centre, frequenting Orwell Leisure Lounge in Upper Orwell Street, and the Showboat in Carr Street, opposite Woolworth's.

Bizarrely he also became the focus of media attention in an incident during the mid-1990s.

In March 1996 he called The Evening Star and the police from a phone box outside Tower Ramparts Shopping Centre at Electric House.

Collins claimed someone had put super-strength glue on the receiver of a telephone he was using and his hand was stuck fast.

He was released after an employee from Barnes, a nearby store, used special solution to free him.

Collins said he was only using the phone to call his niece to wish her a happy birthday.

IN an echo of the BBC's crime drama Waking the Dead, justice finally caught up with Phil John Collins after 19 years.

Yet again advances in forensics, similar to those which clinched the conviction of Steve Wright for the murder of five sex workers in Ipswich in late 2006, proved the 50-year-old rapist's downfall.

Although Collins believed he had got away with the brutalisation of a 17-year-old female in Gippeswyk Park, advances in science finally snared him.

In 1990 experts required a DNA sample the size of a 50 pence piece to work on. Now they can get information from a profile the size of a pinhead.

As a result police are today warning warned that more offenders in unsolved cases will be brought to justice.

Collins was trapped by using a forensic technique called 'familial searching'.

DNA profiles of individuals who are related to each other are more likely to contain similarities than the profiles of unrelated individuals. A familial search of the National DNA Database looks for these similarities to identify a list of potential close relatives of the offender.

A further filtering process is applied to prioritise those with the greatest degree of similarity to the DNA profile gained from the victim or crime scene.

Detectives can then look into the family connections of those on the list, with prioritising further using known facts from the case.

Det Ch Insp Rick Munns said: “This is the first occasion we have been successful in using familial DNA to solve a case like this in Suffolk. This relatively new advance in forensic science has meant we have been able to identify a suspect who for 19 years believed he had escaped justice.

“This result sends a very clear message to anyone who thinks they have escaped justice for similar offences. With every advance in science it is only a matter of time before they too are arrested.”

Judith Cunnison, Specialist Advisor for the Forensic Science Service said: “These cases may lie dormant but they are never forgotten.”