Man jailed for 1987 rape of schoolgirl thanks to DNA breakthrough
Published 24/11/2015 | 17:05
A man has been jailed for the 1987 rape of a schoolgirl thanks to a DNA breakthrough, police have said.
Steven Hearl was today sentenced to six years and four months in prison for attacking the then 16-year-old girl in a field in Alvechurch, Worcestershire, West Mercia Police said.
He had admitted rape after a cold-case review of unsolved sex attacks uncovered a DNA match linking Hearl, of Hunters Walk, Birmingham, to the crime.
Hearl was also handed concurrent jail terms after pleading guilty to two indecent assaults and another count of attempted buggery at Worcester Crown Court.
West Mercia Police said Hearl had never initially been identified due to a lack of forensic evidence.
But in July this year new DNA analysis threw up a match for Hearl and, he was subsequently arrested.
Detective Inspector Paul Hardman, leading the investigation, said Hearl had allowed his victim to suffer for years, knowing her attacker was still at large.
He said: "This was an opportunist attack on what was a young teenage girl at the time.
"Steven Hearl never came forward and consciously allowed his victim to endure over 25 years of suffering in the knowledge that her attacker was still at large, and more worryingly, unidentified.
"We hope that this conviction gives the victim some closure, allowing her to finally put the attack behind her and move on with her life."
Detective Sergeant Sharon Avery, who leads the force's major crime team, said: "We have been able to utilise the latest in scientific technology and apply these techniques to archived evidence in relation to undetected rape and sexual offence cases.
"In a number of cases, some of which were reported more than 30 years ago, the scientific expertise of forensic providers has assisted us in securing full DNA profiles of suspects.
"This has subsequently led to the conviction of offenders who have previously remained unidentified or outstanding."
West Mercia Police's Chief Superintendent Martin McNevin said scientific advances were allowing detectives to re-visit old cases and brings criminals to justice.
He added: "Victims of rape and sexual offences can be reassured that all reports, regardless of when they were made, will be thoroughly investigated.
"We will use all available investigative tactics and innovative technologies available to us as well as regularly reviewing cases."