Rapist Finally Jailed For 1998 Attack

A 46-year-old man, who raped a woman more than ten years ago, has been sentenced to seven and half years in jail.

Stephen Leonard, of Easby Road, Middleton was found guilty of the crime at Manchester Crown Court, Crown Square following an investigation by Greater Manchester Police's (GMP) Cold Case Review Unit.

At 9.15pm on Wednesday 7 January 1998, a 41-year-old woman was walking home following a night out in Manchester city centre.

As she walked along Oldham Road, close to the junction with Great Ancoats Street, Leonard approached her from behind. He grabbed her and forced her down a side street before exposing himself to her and raping her, threatening to kill her if she did not do as he said.

Following the incident the woman contacted the police and was taken to St Mary's Sexual Assault Referral Centre where she was forensically examined and swabs were taken.

The swabs were found to have semen on them but at the time this was not enough to get a DNA profile.

In 2007, as part of Operation Advance, GMP's Cold Case Review Unit re-examined the evidence. Technological advances meant it was possible to gather a DNA profile and when it was loaded onto the national DNA database it was found to match Stephen Leonard.

Leonard was arrested at his home on Wednesday 14 November 2007.

Martin Bottomley, Head of GMP's Cold Case Review Unit said: "Stephen Leonard carried out a violent attack on his victim. She then had to live with the uncertainty of not knowing who attacked her or where that person was.

"I hope she can now find some comfort in the fact that he has been traced and held accountable for what he did.

"Advancing technology now means we are able to review evidence from historic cases and work with the forensic scientists to get profiles of the people responsible.

"We will continue to work to solve these historic crimes and bring the people responsible before the courts."

Operation Advance is a project carried out by the Forensic Science Service, sponsored by the Home Office's Police and Partnership Standards Unit (PPSU) and supported by the Association of Chief Police Officers.

The project involves the forensic review of undetected serious sexual assaults and rapes from 1980s and 1990s.


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