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John Clayson, from Maidstone, to die in jail after being convicted of historic sex attacks thanks to DNA advancements

A serial sex offender will die in jail after being jailed for 21 years for terrifying historic offences.

Predatory John Clayson escaped justice for more than 26 years before police solved the cold case.

The breakthrough came because the 60-year-old retired baker, who is now terminally ill, was convicted of a similar offence in 1995.

John Clayson. Picture: Kent Police.
John Clayson. Picture: Kent Police.

Officers in 2015 looked again at the other two attacks, which happened at knifepoint in multi-storey car parks, again and were able to make a DNA link to Clayson for one of them.

Today, Judge Julian Smith jailed him for 21 years.

Clayson showed no emotion as he was led to the cells. His wife wept in court.

Judge Smith said he was sentencing Clayson for crimes when he was fit young man.

It was clear from the car park victim's account, he said, Clayson revelled in control and domination.

An artist’s impression of the offender in July 1990 and an image of Clayson taken in 1990. Picture: Kent Police.
An artist’s impression of the offender in July 1990 and an image of Clayson taken in 1990. Picture: Kent Police.

There was degradation and he tried to drive her away but was frustrated by his incompetence in handling the car.

"Where you were going to go to is not something I am prepared to speculate on," said the judge.

The victim, who wept in court during the sentencing hearing, told in a statement how she had been deeply affected by her ordeal.

There was degradation and humiliation as she was tied up and subjected to the serious sexual offence, said the judge. She was told Clayson had a knife to scare her into submission.

He targeted a victim who was “vulnerable and accessible”. In both sets of offences he wanted to cause as much harm as he could manage.

“It seems to me it would have carried on had you not been caught in Cornwall.”

The multi-storey car park at Thamesgate Shopping Centre, Gravesend
The multi-storey car park at Thamesgate Shopping Centre, Gravesend

Judge Smith said there was no mitigation to be derived from remorse, which could have been demonstrated by guilty pleas.

“The nature of your conduct is deeply abhorrent,” he continued. “You knew exactly what you wanted and how you were to set about it. The offences are equally grave in their commission.”

He described Clayson holding a knife to the throat of the other victim as he forced himself upon her as “a barbaric act”. She told of her fear as he dominated her.

“It is clear you delighted in the control of your victim,” he said.

The judge added that he had considered a life sentence, but it was submitted he was no longer a risk because of his terminal illness.

Judge Smith commended officers involved in the investigation and ordered that it should be placed on their records.

Pentagon car park, Chatham
Pentagon car park, Chatham

Yesterday, Clayson was convicted of false imprisonment, indecent assault and a more serious sexual offence involving one woman and two serious sex offences involving another woman.

Married Clayson, of Upper Fant Road, Maidstone, was acquitted of attempted rape, indecent assault and having an offensive weapon in one of the car park ordeals suffered by a young woman.

He was also facing a further trial on a rape charge but prosecutor Christopher May offered no evidence in view of the verdicts.

Prosecutor Christopher May said of the car park victim: “It is an extreme case of its type. It must have been the most terrifying ordeal.”

The jury of seven men and five women was out for almost 15 hours.

Mr May then revealed that indecent photos of children were found on Clayson’s computer when arrested.

Defence QC Jonathan Higgs conceded Clayson, who is receiving only palliative care for cancer, was convicted on “strong evidence”.

"It is an extreme case of its type. It must have been the most terrifying ordeal" - Prosecutor Christopher May

“There is no question he will not survive long in his sentence,” he said. “These are terrible offences and nobody in this courtroom would say he doesn’t deserve anything that is coming to him.

“He will remain in prison until he dies - and that may not be very long away.”

Two women were the victims of separate assaults by a masked man in car parks in Chatham and Gravesend in July 1990, but an arrest was not made at the time.

They remained cold cases until 2015 when police were able link DNA evidence to Clayson, who was jailed for five years in February 1995 for attempting to rape a woman in Cornwall at knifepoint.

Forensic experts were able to make a match from a stocking worn on the attacker’s head to Clayson’s DNA profile.

The first attack was on a 19-year-old woman on the top floor of a multi-storey car park at The Pentagon shopping centre in Chatham on July 4 1990.

Clayson was cleared of that assault.

The second attack was 16 days later on a woman, 21, at the former Anglesea multi-storey car park, now Thamesgate shopping centre, in Gravesend.

Clayson was at the time living in Dagmar Road, Chatham, and working at a bakers in Denton, Gravesend.

Prosecutor Christopher May said more recent scientific tests found the majority of Clayson’s “components” present on the stocking.

There was a mixed profile and showed it was 13 million times more likely that the DNA came from Clayson and one or two others.

Judge Julian Smith
Judge Julian Smith

He also committed serious sexual offences with a third woman. On one occasion he held her penknife to her throat so that he could commit the offence.

When arrested in July 2015, Clayson maintained his innocence. He claimed he was “fitted up” by the police for the attempted rape in Cornwall.

In the attack at the former Anglesea multi-storey car park in Gravesend, the woman had been shopping and was heading back to her car when a masked man jumped out on her and told her to be quiet.

"Mr Clayson is a sexual predator, who has refused to admit his guilt throughout the investigation and court proceedings" - DS Andrea Richards

The man told her he was not going to hurt her. He grabbed her by the throat and told her to get into her car.

She got into the passenger seat and he sat in the driver’s seat. He tied her wrists with a pair of tights and put a plaster over her mouth. He warned her he had a knife.

He tried to drive her away but could not handle the car. He then pulled down her underwear and molested her before committing a serious sexual offence.

Afterwards, he ran off. She managed to drive away and while doing so saw her attacker again. He had taken the stocking off his head and was in a car.

She took down what she believed to be the registration number. Police found a stocking which was later analysed for DNA.

Despite telling officers the part of the registration number she noted, her assailant was not traced.

The case was heard at Maidstone Crown Court
The case was heard at Maidstone Crown Court

But years later a photo was obtained showing Clayson standing by a car with a number plate that had one letter different to that given by the victim.

Detective Sergeant Andrea Richards from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate Cold Case Investigation Team said: "We are delighted with the sentence that was handed down today of 21 years to John Clayson. Our victims in this case all came to court, they were very brave and courageous in evidence they gave on the most intimate details.

"This case has been going on for a number of years, and with innovative forensic technologies and investigation by my team we have connected the DNA of John Clayson to the crime at the Anglesea Centre in Gravesend.

"Kent Police and my team are committed to investigating old matters. John Clayson has walked around for 26 years showing no remorse or admitting any of his crimes, and today justice has been served for the victims.

"We have had the opportunity to update all of our victims fully, and they are all delighted. The victim from the Anglesea car park says that she now feels free to carry on with her life. This has saddened her for many years and restricted her from going about her usual business, but now she feels free."

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