A SERIAL rapist has been jailed for life after a 22 year reign of terror following one of Warwickshire Police’s biggest ever investigations.
Phillip Blackwell, previously of Launceston, Cornwall, had previously pleaded guilty to 13 counts of rape, one count of attempted rape, five counts of indecent assault, one count of false imprisonment, four counts of sexual assault, two counts of assault by penetration, four counts of voyeurism and one count of taking an indecent photograph of a child.
The 56 year-old, who grew up in Yardley and also lived in Shirley, committed sexual offences against nine young women in three counties over a 22 year period.
Blackwell was responsible for attacks on five women in south Birmingham, including rapes in Selly Oak and Yardley, and in Nuneaton, in the late 1990s.
In each case, the women were walking alone in the early hours of the morning when they were attacked from behind before being raped or subjected to other sexual offences.
Warwickshire Police launched Operation Fairway, working in collaboration with West Midlands Police and the National Crime Agency, to lead one of the biggest investigations ever carried out by the Warwickshire force.
Despite the size of the investigation and DNA samples being taken from thousands of men in the area, Blackwell, who lived in south Birmingham at the time, did not come to light as a suspect.
Blackwell moved to Cornwall in 2003, where he worked as a teacher, and where he continued to offend.
It was when DNA was checked by officers from Devon and Cornwall Police as part of a 2019 investigation into a rape in Cornwall that he was linked to two of the attacks in the Midlands – one in Nuneaton and one in Birmingham.
He was arrested at his home in Launceston in January 2020 by officers from Devon and Cornwall Police.
Blackwell admitted to the attacks and three more in Birmingham.
Enquiries by Warwickshire Police led to offences against four women in Cornwall being identified.
Blackwell was sentenced to life in prison when he appeared at Warwick Crown Court on Monday. He will serve a minimum of nine years before he can be considered for parole. He will also have to sign the sex offenders’ register for life.
Speaking after Blackwell was sentenced, Warwickshire Police Asst Ch Con Debbie Tedds said: “Today is about Blackwell’s victims. Nothing can ever take away the pain they have suffered but I hope they can take some comfort from seeing him behind bars.
“They have shown great bravery throughout; their collective courage has ensured a very dangerous man is going to prison.
“As a detective constable working on the case for Warwickshire Police in the 1990s I saw first hand the terror Blackwell caused in the community. We were telling women not to go out alone; something you never want to have to do as a police officer.
“Despite not being solved at the time, the offences in the Nuneaton and Birmingham were regularly reviewed for new evidence.
“It was clear that Blackwell was very careful in his offending and this may have led him to believe he had got away with it. However, the bravery of one his victims in Cornwall in reporting her ordeal at his hands and the wonders of DNA technology have today ensured Blackwell’s past has caught up with him.
“The scale of his offending was astonishing; he is a very dangerous man and prison is undoubtedly the best place for him.
“I hope today’s outcome gives everyone the confidence that we will work tirelessly to bring sex offenders to justice no matter how long ago the offences occurred.”
Anyone who has been a victim of a sexual offence, no matter when it occurred, can get support by visiting www.warwickshire.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/rsa/rape-and-sexual-assault/
Two of the victims of Blackwell’s Birmingham attacks in 1997 have spoken of the impact on their lives.
A woman attacked in February of that year said: “It is difficult to put into words how I feel right now. From the day this horrendous nightmare started my whole future changed and not for the better, it affected every aspect of my life. I prayed for the day that the man who raped me was caught and thought it would never happen. The days, months, years of waiting, hoping it would make me feel better.
“Instead it has made me feel awful as I have had to relive all those emotions, it brought everything back.
“To find out he carried on hurting others but lived his life as he did is shocking!
At times recently I have felt that I cannot deal with it, I have felt so low that I wished I wasn’t here.”
Another targeted in November of that year explained: “It is difficult to express in a short statement the impact of Phillip Blackwell’s actions; I was the victim not just of the physical act of his crimes but the ongoing mental illness it caused.
“What do you say about someone who has taken so much? While he has finally faced justice after more than 20 years, whatever sentence he has been given today will not be proportionate to the pain and suffering he has caused me.
“Due to being raped and sexually assaulted by Phillip Blackwell I have suffered from post- traumatic stress disorder and, at my lowest point, I was suicidal.
“Nothing can undo what he did to me but I am thankful for the support of the police and CPS in finally bringing this man to justice and protecting other women from experiencing what I have lived through for more than 20 years.”