I believe sadistic Night Stalker raped and terrorised more women, says ITV's Manhunt's real life detective Colin Sutton

OVER nearly two decades the serial rapist dubbed the Night Stalker led a reign of sexual violence, subjecting hundreds of vulnerable elderly women to sickening sex attacks in their own homes.

After spying on each target, Delroy Grant would expertly remove a window pane to break in, then cut phone lines, take out the light bulbs and wake his sleeping victim by shining a torch in her face.

The hours that followed would feature unimaginable horror as the terrorised victim was sexually attacked and their home burgled.

But after 17 years of police incompetence, the Stalker’s spree was finally ended by DCI Colin Sutton.

The mild-mannered, softly-spoken detective was drafted in after impressing bosses by catching London serial killer Levi Bellfield, whose victims included schoolgirl Milly Dowler. His new surveillance strategy caught the killer in just 17 days.

Colin’s memoirs on the Bellfield case caught the attention of TV producers and eventually became the drama series Manhunt in 2019. Nine million viewers watched the former Detective Chief Inspector brought to life on screen by Martin Clunes.

Now Martin is back as Colin, hunting the sadistic Night Stalker in Manhunt II — and for Colin, now 65, the new series has brought back visceral memories of his investigation.

It was comforting a victim that made him determined to end the Night Stalker’s horrific spree.

He told The Sun: “I’m thick-skinned but there were occasions when that thick skin got pierced.

“This lady was half-blind and she held my hand and whispered in my ear, ‘He interfered with me, you know’, just like that.

Huge gamble

“Realising the courage that took for her to say that to a complete stranger, and the dignity with which she did it, that got under my skin.

“Not many things did but in that moment I felt rage against this man we were seeking.

“It brought home to me first-hand the effects of these terrible things he was doing, the reality for the people that suffered in his hands. She wasn’t just a name on a crime report.”

Colin set up Operation Minstead, which involved hundreds of officers and cost tens of millions of pounds — yet the attacks still kept coming.

 During a peak of activity in 2009, 16 suspected Night Stalker offences were reported in just 19 days.

Colin was desperate to catch the attacker before he could strike again. He explained: “He’d have carried on until he got caught.

“It had become a way of life for him, an integral part of his life.”

 Colin stayed up every night for two weeks to take part in the massive surveillance strategy he had devised to cover the Night Stalker’s favourite hunting ground in Shirley, South London.

Finally exhausted, he took a weekend off — and on the 17th night Grant, then 52, was caught in the early hours of the morning. Colin knew immediately they had their man. 

Several items linked to the offence were found in his car including a screwdriver used to remove window panes in all the attacks. DNA testing of Grant confirmed his hunch.

Approaching Grant for the first time, Colin recalled how he found himself saying: “I’m so pleased to finally meet you.”

He said: “It was incredible for me that we’d done it. This huge gamble had paid off. Thinking back to the victims I’d seen and knowing that there would be no more victims like that was a huge bonus.”

In 2011 Grant was convicted of 29 offences of “utmost gravity” including rape, indecent assault, burglary and theft stretching from 1992 to 2009.

However, Colin believes he has identified many more victims from police files and thinks many of them would have felt too humiliated to report the crimes.

Many of those attacked were known to suffer diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and arthritis, and Colin said: “There were actually 204 offences that I can kind of put my finger on, and I think the number could be considerably higher than that. There are almost certainly offences that were not reported to us or were not realised or deemed to be Operation Minstead offences.

“It’s also possible he started before we thought he did. I’m not convinced he had gone quiet when officially we thought he wasn’t offending.

“There was no reason for him to go quiet for five years. He didn’t spend any time in prison or abroad. The generation of the victims was such that they don’t like to complain.

“We know of instances when he’d indecently assaulted victims and they were extremely reluctant to tell us because it’s not the sort of thing that generation talk about. 

“We’ll probably never know the true extent of what he did.” The Night Stalker was never tried or convicted for murder, but Colin believes he could be classed as a serial killer because his crimes hastened the end of his victims’ lives.

He said: “He certainly contributed to the early demise of many of his victims. Legally, it’s impossible to prove the causation that he killed them, but these are people who were in their last years, and he did something which was the worst thing that could happen to them.”

On guard

Some of Grant’s victims were so terrified they were unable to return to the homes they had lived in for decades, others stopped sleeping at night, staying awake and on guard.

Colin said: “When he’d been arrested, two of the victims said, ‘That’s great. I can go back to being awake in the daytime now’. Since he’d broken in, they were staying up at night in case he came back, then sleeping during the day.

“It’s the effects he had on not only hastening their deaths, but also in reducing their quality of life quite substantially for those last years.”

Colin believes the Stalker was at large for nearly two decades because of the victims’ age and society’s attitude towards the elderly.

He said: “It shouldn’t have gone on for so long. If these victims had been aged 18 to 35, rather than 58 to 95, there would have been an outcry. They would have had a voice.

“But the stoic kind of people who lived through rationing and the war didn’t have that voice.

“They didn’t have social media, all the things that people can use now to make sure these issues get debated.” Working with writer Ed Whitmore, Colin was determined that just as in the first Manhunt series, the Night Stalker and his crimes must not be glorified. Instead, the perpetrator is shown as “defeated”.

He said: “Delroy Grant is only a part of this once he’s arrested. When we show them, we show them as prisoners, as defeated protagonists. We don’t want to do any glorification or kind of fascination with them.

“I know people are fascinated with why people do things like Grant did, but that’s not what the show is about. It’s about how the good guys cope with it.”

Colin believes we see too much gratuitous sexual violence on our screens and he hopes that times are changing.

He said: “We are rightly entering an era when those questions are going to be asked about whether it’s actually necessary. I’m glad that we certainly don’t glorify any of the sexual violence that took place against these women.”

Instead, the show focuses on the painstaking police work that is needed to catch villains such as Grant and Bellfield and the way the cases are built against those who threaten society.

With his quiet humour, diligence and calm demeanour, Colin is a world away from your stereotypical TV detective. And he is thrilled that actor Martin Clunes has brought that to life on TV, even though he swears there is one difference between him and Martin’s version — he never wears a V-neck sweater under a blazer.

Even so, after the first series screened, those who knew Colin thought Martin’s TV version of him was uncanny.

He said: “Friends and family said, ‘Gosh, he’s got your mannerisms!’

“He did that based on five or six hours with me, tops. He’s a fantastic actor, much better than he’s often given credit for.

“In Manhunt II he’s a little bit softer, a little bit more jokey, which is how I was and how I am. It’s an absolute honour to be played by somebody like him.” l Manhunt II: The Night Stalker starts on Monday at 9pm on ITV.

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