Man jailed for mid-90’s Bedford rapes

Prem Chandra
Prem Chandra

A double rapist was free for a decade because of a breakdown in communication between the forensic science service and the police.

Prem Chandra, now 49, was part of a gang that plied a 14-year-old girl with whisky before raping her.

A year later, in 1997, he was involved in the gang rape of a 26-year-old drunken woman, who had mistakenly got on a train to Bedford after her office party.

Today (Tuesday) he was jailed for nine years by Judge Andrew Bright QC who told him: “You are now 49. You are married man. While you may have moved on the two victims have suffered devastating psychological damage.”

Luton crown court heard there was no DNA match at the time as Chandra was of good character, but in 2009 he was arrested for battery and a DNA sample was taken.

Prosecutor Peter Shaw said: “In 2009, the defendant, previously of good character, was convicted of a battery offence. His DNA had been taken during the course of the investigation in the ordinary way.

“The forensic science services apparently found a full DNA match with this defendant in relation to the rape of the 14 year old girl.

“It also found there was a partial DNA match in relation to the 26-year-old woman”

But he said it is not clear if the Forensic Science Service passed on the information to the police. He said: “The police have no record of receiving such a notification.

“The scientific services found a match in 2009, but there was a breakdown in the chain of communication,” he said.

The rapes were later subject to cold case reviews. “That involved the use of enhanced DNA techniques. It was as a result of this review that the defendant was identified and the previous omission discovered,” said Mr Shaw.

Chandra was finally arrested on 18 March 2018. In police interviews he made no comment. He was aged 22 at the time of the first rape and 24 at the time of the second.

Chandra, who had previously been known as Putal Nath, from St Leonard’s Avenue, Bedford, appeared for sentence having pleaded guilty to two charges of rape, on 25 June 1996 and 30 July 1997.

Read: Bedford man charged with rapes from mid-1990s

Plied with whisky

Mr Shaw said the 14-year-old girl had been sitting on a wall in Bedford on her own when a silver car with a few Asian men inside drove by. She knew one of them and got in the car.

She was plied with whisky and coke and was driven to Sandy, then to Cardington Hangars, before being taken to Priory Marina in Bedford.

The prosecutor said: “She got out of the car and realised she was so drunk she could hardly stand.

“One of the men put his arms around her, but was pushed away by two others. She noticed it was getting dark and then lost consciousness.”

As she came round she realised one man was on top of her having sex. Mr Shaw said: “Her jeans, knickers and footwear had been removed. She had no idea of the precise location but was on her back on some grass next to a hut.“

She was then raped by other men. She told the police she had no idea how many times they had sex with her.

Mr Shaw said: “Someone mentioned a police car and the men reacted by dressing quickly, before fleeing the scene.

“They returned to her a short while later and she recalled being sick. She was dropped off at the council offices in Ampthill.

“She started walking in a state of distress. A man took her to sit down outside a pub and the police and an ambulance were called. “

Mr Shaw said that just over a year later, on 30th July 1997, a 26 year old woman had been to a works party in central London.

“She boarded a Thameslink train intending to get off at New Cross, but under the influence of alcohol consumed that evening, she fell asleep.

“She awoke to find that the train reached Bedford Station. It was so late, that no further trains were running until the following day.

“She was stranded and walked to Bedford town centre where she started a conversation with some Asian looking men in a car parked nearby. The men told her they were going to London and offered to give her a lift. She accepted the offer.

“Not long after the journey commenced, she was told that the car had to make a quick detour before proceeding to London.

“She told the police she recalled being taken into a building that from the inside appeared to be a restaurant. She was offered a drink which she accepted and having consumed some of the contents, lost consciousness.

“She abruptly regained consciousness to discover that she was being vaginally raped by an Asian man with another Asian man fondling her breasts.

“She had been placed flat on her back on a table and stripped naked from the waist down. She recalled that her shoes had been left on.

“Across the room there were three to five Asian men standing there watching her being raped.

“In an attempt to stop the ordeal she told the rapist she had AIDs. This failed to deter the man. She recalled the rape itself lasted for about five minutes until she heard someone within the watching group say: ‘That’s enough’.”

She was driven back to London.

In a statement, the first victim said she had been seeking psychiatric and other help.

Addressing Chandra, in the statement that was read by Mr Shaw, she said she was utterly helpless and did not know what was happening to her at the time. “I was driving around puking in back of the car while you played at being gangsta rappers.”

The second said the effects will last for her lifetime with the image of the men raping her “haunting her.” She said she hoped her other attackers will be brought to justice.

Defending Kate Davey said the rapes happened well over two decades ago when he was a very different person. She said he had recently arrived in the UK from India and had not been the instigator or ring leader.

She said he had driven a minibus for university students and carried voluntary work for the Hindu community and a local church.

Operation Painter

In an earlier statement, Bedfordshire police said evidence recovered during both investigations did not match with any offenders at the time.

But Chandra’s DNA profile, from samples taken when he was convicted for another offence in 2008, was eventually traced through work carried out under Operation Painter.

Operation Painter is a review of undetected rapes and sexual offences which occurred between 1974 and 1999.

Detective Inspector Emma Pitts, of the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit, who investigated these cases, said: “Chandra’s victims have lived with the memory of their horrific ordeals for more than two decades, while their attacker evaded capture.

“He will now be brought to account for these abhorrent crimes and we must thank the victims for their bravery and their assistance in bringing these cases to court, and hope the outcome is able to provide some form of closure.

“We take such reports extremely seriously, and it is never too late to report a sexual assault.”