Joseph McCann was convicted of a horrific campaign of kidnappings, rapes and sex attacks
Serial sex attacker Joseph McCann has today been jailed for a minimum of 30 years for attacking 11 women and children in a two-week rampage after being freed from prison by mistake.
Convicted burglar McCann, 34, released after a probation service error, was handed 33 life sentences.
He abducted, raped and assaulted victims aged between 11 and 71 in Watford, London and the North West.
He snatched some victims off the street, forcing them into his car at knifepoint in a 15 day cocaine and vodka fuelled rampage, just two months after he was freed.
He allegedly used a ‘support network’ across the country to evade police, despite being identified as a suspect on the day of his first attack.
McCann, who had addresses in Aylesbury and Harrow, refused to attend his Old Bailey trial and hid under a prison blanket rather than give evidence.
It was claimed on his behalf that the women he was accused of molesting had consensual sex, but that was dismissed as ‘ludicrous’ by victims.
On Friday, the jury deliberated for five hours to find him guilty of 37 charges relating to 11 victims, including eight rapes, false imprisonment and kidnap.
He should never have been at liberty to commit the vile crimes and the head of the prison service apologised unreservedly for the catastrophic error.
This is the moment police finally brought McCann’s spate of rapes and abductions to an end following a police chase and a five-hour stand-off as he hid in a tree
Footage released by police shows McCann’s arrest after he hid up a tree after going on the run
McCann was freed automatically from jail in February – halfway through a three-year sentence. The decision to release him should instead have been made after consideration by the Parole Board.
This was because he was on lifelong licence for an aggravated burglary in 2007. However this earlier offence was not factored into his three-year sentence, with the result that parole officers were not informed about his case.
Following a Ministry of Justice investigation, one staff member has been found guilty of gross misconduct and demoted.
Another probe saw a staff member who worked on McCann’s case sacked and another had their contract terminated.
A map shows the trail of misery McCann wrought across the country over two weeks
McCann looking into a Fiat car as he buys petrol and a pack of Durex condoms at a Shell garage with two 14-year-old girls allegedly in the car
Calls were made for an independent inquiry into McCann’s release and Nick Hardwick, former chairman of the Parole Board, said a senior figure should take the blame.
There were also questions about poor communication between neighbouring police forces during McCann’s rampage.
How McCann was twice released from prison despite a judge finding he was ‘dangerous’
2008 – Joseph McCann threatened to stab an 85-year-old man in his home. He told the elderly man ‘give me money or I will knife you’ before taking his wallet and banking papers. He was jailed for an indeterminate term and told he cannot apply for parole for two and a half years.
Early 2017 – McCann is released on licence by the parole board.
Late 2017 – While on licence, he commits a burglary and is returned to prison on a three-year sentence.
February 2019 – McCann is wrongly released without having gone before the parole board. Instead, he is released automatically half way through his three-year jail term.
April and May 2019 – McCann goes on two-week rampage of rape, sexual assault and kidnap.
It has also emerged that:
- McCann had previously been rejected for parole three times, in 2010, 2012 and 2014;
- The rapist – along with his two brothers – was one of the first people in Britain to be given an Asbo in 1999. He was just 14;
- His elder brother Sean killed himself in prison in March 2016;
- Four men and two women have been arrested on suspicion of aiding McCann while he was on the run.
McCann, from Harrow, north-west London, was described as ‘pure evil’ as jurors heard how he drove around the country drinking vodka and snorting cocaine while performing horrific acts on his victims.
His depraved rampage, which the detective who led the investigation said was the ‘most horrendous sex offending’ she had ever seen, began in Watford on April 21.
He abducted a 21-year-old at knifepoint as she walked home from a nightclub and raped the mother of one on her own bed. Afterwards McCann told her rape is ‘what we do in the traveller community’.
A string of appalling offences followed over the next two weeks.
He targeted victims in London, Manchester and Cheshire, tricking his way into one woman’s home before tying her up and molesting her son and daughter.
He was eventually caught by police while hiding up a tree in Cheshire. A jury at the Old Bailey found McCann guilty of 37 offences including false imprisonment, rape, rape of a child, kidnap and sexual assault. The jurors sent a note to the judge that read: ‘The jury want to acknowledge the bravery of all the victims in this case and the courage it has taken for them to come forward.’
Separate CCTV shows him at a McDonald’s drive through with two victims still in his car
McCann refused to be interviewed at any stage of the investigation and refused to leave his cell at Belmarsh Prison in south-east London to appear in court.
Probation worker sacked after McCann recall shambles
The head of HM Prisons and Probation Service, has apologised ‘unreservedly’ for failings in the Joseph McCann case.
The Ministry of Justice launched an inquiry into why McCann was not recalled to prison after committing a burglary following his release from an indeterminate sentence for aggravated burglary.
Four probation officers from the Watford office faced a disciplinary, the BBC reported today, one of whom was demoted.
In a separate investigation, another worker was sacked and another had their contract terminated.
Chief executive Jo Farrar said today: ‘We recognise that there were failings and we apologise unreservedly for our part in this. We are committed to doing everything we possibly can to learn from this terrible case.
‘We have taken strong and immediate action against those involved in the management of McCann’s case and are taking significant steps to improve intelligence sharing between agencies.
‘At the same time, we are developing new mandatory training on recall for all probation officers and we have updated guidance on the threshold for recalling an offender to prison.’
Mr Hardwick said: ‘I would like to see someone more senior, someone at the head of the organisation to step up and take responsibility for what has gone wrong here. There is no way McCann should have been released and the Parole Board would not have let it happen had they been involved.
‘This has been blamed on individual human error – but this is an indication of wider problems in the system. And if you were to ask “could this happen again?” of course it could, unless wider problems are addressed.’
David Green of the think-tank Civitas said: ‘This case highlights just how dysfunctional our justice system can be.’
Richard Burgon, Labour’s justice spokesman, said: ‘There must now be a full independent review into what led to these shocking failures including what role deep government cuts to the Ministry of Justice budget and chaotic probation reforms played.’
Jo Farrar, chief executive of HM Prisons and Probation Service, said: ‘We recognise that there were failings and we apologise unreservedly for our part in this.
‘We are committed to doing everything we possibly can to learn from this terrible case. We have taken strong and immediate action against those involved.’
Jurors were played a recording of the mother’s 999 call in which she pleads with police to find her daughter.’
‘A man grabbed my 21-year-old about five minutes ago,’ she says, as her younger daughter is heard wailing in the background.
‘He tried to grab both of them but got hold of one of my daughters and the other ran away.’
There was already another woman, aged 25, in the car. She had been abducted in the early hours of that morning as she walked home in Walthamstow, east London.
John Price QC, prosecuting, said the 25-year-old woman had been raped ‘many times’ and subjected to acts of ‘shocking depravity and violence’.
She had also been made to perform sexual acts on McCann, who threatened to throw her into a canal to destroy DNA evidence.
‘He made her call him ‘Daddy’ and say that she was a child,’ said Mr Price. ‘At one point the man parked the car near to a school, saying that he wanted to make her rape a child. He raped [the woman] at that location.’
Prosecutor Mr Price said the 21-year-old snatched from the street was also raped and made to perform ‘depraved’ sexual acts.
The pair eventually escaped after the 25-year-old smashed a vodka bottle over McCann’s head, giving them time to run to a group of nearby builders in Watford.
McCann was caught on CCTV buying petrol and condoms at a Shell garage with two 14-year-old girls abducted in a Fiat car
The 11 victims of McCann two-week reign of terror
- McCann’s first victim was a 21-year-old single mum walking home from a nightclub in Watford in the early hours of the morning on April 20. After bundling her into his car he forced the victim to drive to her flat where he raped her on her own bed.
- Five days later a 25-year-old woman walking home from work was snatched off the street by McCann just yards from her home. The woman endured a 14 hour ordeal while repeatedly raped in McCann’s car.
- A 21-year-old woman was then snatched off the street while his second victim was still in the car. She was raped and forced to carry out degrading sex acts.
North West crimes
- On May 5, McCann struck again after meeting a woman at a bar in Lancashire and going back to her home. He tied the woman up with cable from her hairdryer and then subjected her 17-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son to a horrific four hour sex ordeal where they were both raped.
- McCann then abducted a 71-year-old woman in the car park of a supermarket. He later raped her in the car during a five hour ordeal.
- He then abducted two 13-year-old boys and a 13-year-old girl in Manchester. The girl was sexually assaulted while the boys were released.
- His final victims were two 14-year-old girls who crouched in terror on the back seat of his stolen car while being chased by police.
McCann then went on the rampage in the North-West, picking up a mother in a bar in Lancashire before tying her up and raping her 17-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son in their home.
He then abducted his eldest victim, a 71-year-old woman, from a nearby Morrisons supermarket car park.
McCann let himself into the passenger door of her Fiat Punto as she began driving out of the car park, then punched her hard in the face, the Old Bailey was told.
He is said to have sexually assaulted her and then ordered her to drive him to Heywood, where he forced a 13-year-old girl to get into the car before sexually assaulted her too. They were able to escape at Knutsford service station on the M6.
McCann is alleged to have fled in the car, and little more than half an hour later used it to abduct two 14-year-old girls in Congleton, Cheshire. A friend rang police from a nearby shop.
Hundreds of officers from forces across the country were involved in the manhunt once McCann had been identified as the rape suspect.
During his remand court appearances McCann refused to take part in the proceedings with a magistrate having to go to his cell.
He refused to attend the Old Bailey trial leaving police involved rolling their eyes in disbelief when his QC produced a list of excuses.
McCann claimed he was suffering sleepless nights and had back problems. He also claimed prison officers were picking on him and complained about the food at Belmarsh Prison.
Unusually for such a high profile case the jurors never saw him during the three week trial and he was not in the dock when they found him guilty after five hours of deliberation.
One officer in the case said: ‘ This just showed what a coward McCann is. He subjected these girls, women and a boy to the most horrific abuse, yet did not have the guts to face them in court.’
McCann’s QC Jo Sidu offered no defence other than to claim the sexual assaults and rape were all consensual.
EXCLUSIVE: Life of crime from 11: Serial rapist Joseph McCann spent childhood stealing, setting fire to cars and terrorising neighbours as he became one of first in Britain to be given an ASBO aged 14
So violent were McCann and his brothers that he became one of the first in Britain to be given an ASBO, aged just 14 (above in 1999)
Evil sex beast Joseph McCann spent his childhood stealing, setting fire to cars and terrorising his terrified neighbours.
So violent were he and his brothers that he became one of the first in Britain to be given an ASBO, aged just 14.
The trio ran a campaign of intimidation on their impoverished Manchester estate during the 90s.
For years McCann, his elder brother Sean and younger brother Michael struck fear into locals.
One told MailOnline: ‘They were a horrible family, absolutely vile – scum of the earth.’
The brothers became notorious in 1999 when they were given the first ASBOs and emerged from court defiant.
Staring down the cameras, McCann and his brothers, Sean then 16 and Michael, 12, were seen swearing and grinning.
McCann grew up on the Beswick estate in Manchester, a deprived area of the city which has now been knocked down.
Born in 1985, the son of Richard, a Scottish builder and Margaret, a mother with links to the traveller community, he grew up with a fierce temper and struggled to control his anger.
He and his brothers stole for sport and threatened anyone who got in their way.
At the age of 11 he had his first brush with the police and was convicted in 1998 for theft.
For years McCann, his elder brother Sean (in red) and younger brother Michael (in blue) struck fear into residents. One told McCann: ‘They were a horrible family, absolutely vile – scum of the earth’
The brothers became notorious in 1999 when they were given the first ASBOs and emerged from court defiant. Staring down the cameras, McCann (right) and his brothers, Sean then 16 and Michael (left), 12, were seen swearing and grinning
So prolific was the three boys stealing that when they were finally banned from the estate the following year, takings at the local shops increased by £14,000 a week.
Forced to moved from Beswick, they headed south to Aylesbury, in Buckinghamshire, and Middlesex where they linked up with their traveller relatives.
Born in 1985, the son of a Scottish builder and a mother with links to the traveller community, he grew up with a fierce temper and struggled to control his anger. He and his brothers stole for sport and threatened anyone who got in their way
Former neighbours on a quiet estate in Wealdstone, Middlesex, recalled how they lived in fear of the McCanns who issued threats to anyone who challenged them.
‘They arrived overnight and brought havoc,’ one neighbour told MailOnline. ‘Everyone quickly got to know about the McCanns. They were awful.
‘Joseph and his brother were always stealing cars. They’d drive the cars around and then they’d burn them on our little green. The police would be around their house all the time.
‘One time they drove this van into the back garden. We called the police and they said it had been stolen about 15 minutes beforehand.’
He added: ‘We heard that they had had to leave where they used to live because it became too hot for them.’
McCann was in and out of prison until 2008 when armed with a knife, he broke into the home of a frail 85-year-old man in Bedford.
The pensioner was watching TV when McCann burst in through a sidedoor and threatened to stab the pensioner before stealing several items.
When McCann was jailed in 2008, his then girlfriend was pregnant with their second child. They already had a very young child.
So prolific was the three boys stealing that when they were finally banned from the estate the following year, takings at the local shops increased by £14,000 a week
Forced to moved from Beswick, they headed south. Former neighbours on a quiet estate in Wealdstone, Middlesex, recalled how they lived in fear of the McCanns who issued threats to anyone who challenged them. Above, the family home
Her name is believed to have been ‘Bobbie’ and it was this name which he had tattooed across his stomach.
McCann spent the next 11 years in prison before being released, jailed again in 2018 and then released earlier this year for his devastating two week attack.
It was a marked shift of brutality for a man who until this year has focused pn carrying out violent burglaries.
After his years in and out of prison, the McCann family are believed to have finally moved out of Wealdstone for good some six or seven years ago.
Another neighbour said: ‘I breathed a sigh of relief when they did. They used to throw bricks at anyone.
‘There used to be a brick wall outside their house. But they took all the bricks out to throw them at people.
‘If you said anything to them they would threaten to beat you up. There were two older boys and one little one. They were really horrible.
‘The boys were always out in the street. There was no way of avoiding them. Everyone knew the McCanns. But there was nothing we could do.
‘They were part of a gang. Their house was like their headquarters.’
After his years in and out of prison, the McCann family are believed to have finally moved out of Wealdstone some six or seven years ago. Another neighbour said: ‘I breathed a sigh of relief when they did. They used to throw bricks at anyone’
Always close to his brothers, McCann was left bereft after Sean, 32, committed suicide in Peterborough prison in 2016 while serving a two-year sentence for assault.
Today, McCann’s parents live in a modest semi-detached bungalow on the outskirts of Aylesbury.
His father, Richard McCann, drives a 2019-plate 4×4 Ford Kuga car which is often parked on a driveway by the front door.
A sign on the wall warns visitors; ‘Beware of the wife.’
Part of a trailer lies on the driveway while a mobile home is parked in the garden behind a high wooden fence.
The semi-detached property is guarded by security cameras.
‘His eyes were pure evil’: Teenager, 17, who was raped in her own home by Joseph McCann revealed how he told her to have sex with her brother, 11, before she jumped naked from first floor window to save her family
Pprosecutors and police hailed the incredible bravery of the victims who escaped Joseph McCann’s clutches.
McCann kept the women and children he snatched from the streets locked in his car for hours while raping others and holding them at knifepoint in their own homes.
Joseph McCann put his victims through horrific ordeals of rape and kidnap
A 17-year-old girl had to jump from the first floor window of her Lancashire home after McCann abducted her mother and tied her up at their house.
McCann raped the 17-year-old and her 11-year-old brother.
The 17-year-old said in a statement to police: ‘You know when you can see inside someone’s eyes and you know they are pure evil.’
The girl fractured her heel when she jumped out of a window naked to escape and she feared McCann had killed her mother and brother in revenge for her getting away.
Another of McCann’s victims told how she had to hit McCann over the head with a vodka bottle to get away after he kept them in his car.
She said: ‘I went back to the car to get a big bottle of vodka. I took the bottle out of the bag and hit him on the head,’ she said.
‘It smashed and I ran away to some builders shouting ‘help, help. He is kidnapping us. They let me into a builder’s merchants and I saw the car driveway.’
McCann at the Phoenix Lodge Hotel in Watford on the afternoon of April 25, as he left two women, his alleged victims, in his car outside
McCann’s other victims included a 21-year-old woman he snatched as she walked home from Pryzm nightclub in Watford in the early hours of April 21.
On April 25, he abducted a 21-year-old woman in broad daylight in north-west London. Already inside the car was another woman, 25, who had been abducted in east London and held captive for 14 hours.
His final two victims were two 14-year-old girls who crouched in terror on the back seat of his stolen car while being chased by police.
After McCann was convicted, CPS prosecutor Tetteh Turkson said: ‘His victims endured horrifying acts of sexual violence and were subjected to a truly terrifying ordeal.
‘It was through persistence and bravery that some of them managed to escape.
‘They showed great strength of character in recounting their stories to police and giving evidence to the court – reliving some of what must have been the darkest moments of their lives.
‘It is with the power of this evidence, and the courage of the victims in giving evidence, that Joseph McCann has been convicted of his crimes.
‘I hope today’s verdicts provide some comfort to the victims and allows them to focus on moving on and rebuilding their lives.’
The seven men and five women on the panel at the Old Bailey trial took the unusual step of passing a note to trial judge Mr Justice Edis asking him to place on record their sentiments.
The note said: ‘The jury want to acknowledge the bravery of all the victims in this case and the courage it has taken for them to come forward.’
Two weeks of terror: How McCann drove around the country abducting and raping his victims
Victim one, April 21 – McCann’s sickening attacks began when he snatched a 21-year-old woman as she walked home from Pryzm nightclub in Watford in the early hours.
After kidnapping her with a knife to her throat, he told her: ‘I don’t agree with hitting women’, before raping her in her own bed.
The victim was able to preserve DNA on a tissue and prosecutors said it was ‘one billion more times likely‘ to have come from McCann.
The woman reported the attack to police, McCann’s details were put on the Police National Computer and a prison recall was issued.
McCann using a drive-thru at McDonalds on April 25, while his victim was in his car
Victim two, April 25 – He abducted a 25-year-woman as she walked home from work in Walthamstow and subjected her to a 14-hour rape ordeal.
McCann told her he ‘wanted to make her rape a child’ when they were outside a school.
Victims three and four, April 25 – Hours after abducting the 25-year-old woman, who he was still holding captive, McCann was caught on CCTV bundling a 21-year-old into his car in north London, as her sister, 18, ran off screaming.
The 21-year-old was forced to perform sex acts on the 25-year-woman and was also raped.
The two captives escaped outside the Phoenix Lodge in Watford, after the 25-year-old woman hit McCann over the head with a vodka bottle.
The Metropolitan Police circulated a CCTV image of McCann at the Phoenix Hotel and received a tip-off with his name following a public appeal.
McCann at the Phoenix Lodge Hotel in Watford on the afternoon of April 25, as he left two women, his alleged victims, in his car outside.
Victim five, six and seven, May 5 – McCann struck again after meeting a woman at a bar in Lancashire and going back to her home.
He tied the woman up with cable from her hairdryer. He then subjected her 17-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son to a horrific four hour sex ordeal where they were both raped.
The family’s ordeal came to an end when the girl jumped naked from a first floor bedroom and ran to her grandmother’s house to raise the alarm.
The 17-year-old said in a statement to police: ‘You know when you can see inside someone’s eyes and you know they are pure evil.’
Her distressing 999 call left jurors in tears and led the judge to offer them counselling half way through the trial.
McCann on a bus in Greater Manchester after attacking a family at their house
Victim eight, May 5 – After leaving the house in Lancashire, McCann then abducted a 71-year-old woman in the car park of a supermarket.
When she protested he punched her in the face and later sexually assaulted her in the car.
Victim nine, May 5 – Later that day, McCann abducted a 13-year-old girl.
He forced the pensioner, who was also in the car, to drive as he sexually assaulted the teenager.
Both the girl and the 71-year-old woman were able to escape at Knutsford service station.
Victims 10 and 11, May 5 – His final victims were two 14-year-old girls who crouched in terror on the back seat of his stolen car while being chased by police.
Roadblocks had been set up as police searched for McCann in a stolen Fiat Punto.
He was forced to flee on foot after crashing and abandoning the car and was captured on film running through the back gardens of homes in Cheshire pursued by police.
McCann hid in a tree and – despite being spotted by a police helicopter – refused to give up.
Footage released by the police showed McCann being captured by a specialist team after a four hour standoff.
He was shivering having worn a wet red T-shirt he had snatched from a clothesline while running between houses.
After his arrest he taunted police by saying if they had caught him after the first two rapes he would not have been able to continue with his assaults.
May 6 – A police helicopter finally locates him up a tree, he was coaxed down and arrested.