Depraved sex offender jailed for 1995 Shortstown rape

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James Devlin
James Devlin

A depraved sex offender has been jailed for 13 years today (7 May) for the rape of a schoolboy in Shortstown, near Bedford more than 23 years ago.

In 1995, the 15-year-old had been waiting by a bus stop for his friend when James Devlin, 55, came up and asked him if he would help bump start his car.

The boy, who was still in his school uniform, agreed to help and followed Devlin a short distance before being suddenly pulled into some bushes where he was raped.

At the time, in October 1995, the attacker wasn’t identified. But, thanks to advances in DNA technology, intimate samples retained by Bedfordshire police in 1995 were re-examined as part of a cold case review in 2017.

It was this that proved Devlin was the attacker.

Around the time of the cold case review, Devlin was nearing the end of a life sentence imposed by Northampton crown court in 1996 for the rape of a 14-year-old boy in the county that year.

Today (7 May) at Luton crown court, Judge Barbara Mensah was told the attack on the youngster that day in Shortstown near Bedford had had a life changing impact on him.

His friends at school discovered what had happened and he was teased and bullied.

He began suffering from anxiety and depression and, in the years that followed, moved away from his family and became addicted to alcohol and heroin.

He had his own brushes with the law and was plagued by suicidal thoughts.

Today, part of a victim impact statement was read out in court in which he said: ”The rape affected every single area of my life for the worse.

“It affected my life drastically and sent me down the wrong path,” he said.

Devlin, 55, appeared for sentence today having been found guilty in January of this year of the single rape of the 15 year old.

The court heard how at the time of the attack Devlin was living in Bedford but no address was given in court, as he’s been residing in prison.

Devlin strenuously denied the charge but Judge Mensah told him today: “The jury saw through your lies.”

The court heard how, in Scotland in the late 1980s, Devlin had committed sexual assaults and rapes on a 14 year old boy and a 15 year old boy.

He had been jailed at Glasgow High Court before being released in the early 1990s.

At his trial in January of this year the jury heard how the 15 year old boy had got off a bus from school at around a quarter past three in the afternoon of Monday 16 October.

He was waiting by a telephone kiosk for a friend to arrive on a different school bus.

The victim’s statement was read out in court and in it he said: “A man walked up to me and asked if I had the time. I told him ‘no.’

“He walked up to where I was standing and he asked me to help him with his car. I said I would and he said it was five minutes down the road at Cardington and he would bring me back.”

The teenager told the police that they walked across a field and then a short distance along the road to Cardington where he was grabbed by the arm and pulled into bushes.

He said the attacker hit him lightly across the head when he said: “I don’t want this.”

When he tried to struggle he said he was told to calm down and was raped.

1995 shortstown rape
An image of the rapist, now known to be James Devlin, issued during the police investigation in 1995.

The crime remained unsolved but the following year Devlin was arrested for the rape of the 14 year old boy in the neighbouring county of Northamptonshire.

At the time, because of the similarities with the Bedfordshire incident the year before, Northants detectives contacted their colleagues in Bedford suggesting they might want to interview Devlin.

He was seen while in custody but denied attacking the boy and, at the time, it wasn’t possible to connect him through DNA.

Devlin went on to receive a life sentence at Northampton crown court for the rape of the 14 year old.

Today Judge Mensah was told he was released from that sentence in 2004, but recalled to prison in 2006 after it was discovered he had formed an inappropriate relationship with a young adult male.

Following his conviction in January, Detective Chief Inspector Alan Page, from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit, which is investigating unsolved cases, said: “Devlin is an evil individual who targets the young and vulnerable in our society.

“Prison is where he needs to be, both to pay for his criminality and protect other individuals from his abhorrent offending.

“His victim has shown extraordinary bravery in assisting the police, both back in 1995 and during this reinvestigation.

“I am so thankful that we have managed to solve this despicable crime and bring Devlin to justice, ensuring he remains where he should be; in prison.”

After the verdict, Devlin’s victim said: “As time went by I never thought this day would come, but it is just such a relief that the offender has now been caught.

“I want to thank the investigation team for finally bringing Devlin to justice. I am so grateful that advances in science have made this possible.”

The conviction is the result of work by the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit through Operation Painter, which began in September 2016.

It was set up to review undetected rapes and sexual offences which occurred across the three forces between 1974 and 1999.

Detective Chief Superintendent Mark Lay of Bedfordshire Police, the officer in charge, said: “We cannot underestimate the gravity of this particular case, and the horrific ordeal that Devlin inflicted on his young victim which has gone unpunished for so long.

“This is the fourth successful conviction under Operation Painter. It is with thanks to the advancements in forensic science that we can now review cases dating back decades.

“This verdict further proves the importance of our work in revisiting past cases in order to bring evil predators to justice, and finally deliver a form of closure for their victims.”