There’s no conventional profile of a rapist – it can be anyone.
The public’s perception is that rapes are usually carried out by a stranger but these are actually a rarity. In most cases, the rapist is someone who is known to the victim.
In this case, the victim had met the suspect in a bar on a night out, but they didn’t know each other before that evening. It was one of the first rape investigations I was involved in from the very beginning.
The case was called in by the hospital the woman visited after the incident. It’s not unusual for people not to report such an incident directly to the police, if they report it at all – it’s a hugely difficult thing to relive such an ordeal.
We immediately launched an investigation. We didn’t know who the suspect was, so we had to start from scratch.
The victim didn’t know what hotel she’d been in when the incident happened, but she was able to give us a brief description.
She knew it had white walls and a green door, and she’d also given us a description of the room and its number, so we began a search of hotels in the area that matched that description.
Fortunately we were able to quickly identify the hotel and we were able to seize bed linen from the room. Finding the location also meant we were able to get the name of the suspect and he was quickly brought into custody for questioning.
Forensic evidence can be crucial in rape cases, but if the suspect says there was sexual activity and it was consensual, such as in this case, then we have a much more difficult job on our hands.
We continued to search for more evidence and sought out a witness –which itself can be rare in rape cases – but this wasn’t enough.
The woman was clearly a different person after leaving that hotel. But both she and the suspect had given different accounts as to the reasons for her change in behaviour.
We believe each victim, all along, but the difficulty comes in proving beyond reasonable doubt that the sexual activity occurred without their consent.
In this case, the CPS decided that there wasn’t enough evidence to secure a charge on the suspect.
Calling the woman to inform her of the CPS decision was incredibly difficult, delivering the blow to our victim that we couldn’t take the case any further unless new evidence was to come to light.
She was fully on board with our investigation, had given us everything she possibly could, and it was tough to let her down.
There’s definitely a widespread issue of the understanding of consent. People should know that it’s about more than just the words, ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Someone doesn’t have to be screaming and fighting for them not to be consenting, or withdrawing consent.
I’d really like to tell people out there – victims or not – that we would never simply close a case because it’s one person’s word against another.
We do all we can to prove a version of events and make sure that victim gets all the support they need for the ordeal they’ve experienced.
It can be hard to get people to understand the complexities of a case like this.
Hopefully the programme shows the extent we go to investigate these matters, before it goes out of our hands.
Thankfully we are seeing more people being confident in coming forward, knowing that we’ll do everything we can. I’d like to think we’re making a difference.
Detective Constable Paul Falcon has been with Bedfordshire Police for nine and a half years. After working within the force’s Rape Investigation Unit and leading the case featured in 24 Hours in Police Custody: A Complaint of Rape, he is now working for CID in the south of the county.