Man sentenced for historic kidnap and serious sexual assaults in Harpenden
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A man who kidnapped and seriously sexually assaulted two teenage girls in Harpenden over 20 years ago was sentenced to 16 years imprisonment with a two year extended licence at St Albans Crown Court (sitting at St Albans Magistrates Court) today (Tuesday 19 December).
Alec Housden, aged 60, of Kingsbury Gardens in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, pleaded guilty to the two assaults – which were committed in 2002 – after being arrested by police on 22 March this year following a DNA match.
He was charged with the kidnap and indecent assault of a female on Sunday 7 April 2002 and the kidnap and indecent assault of a female on Wednesday 19 June 2002, both in Piggottshill Lane, Harpenden.
The 16-year-old victim in the 7 April incident was walking along Piggotshill Lane when a man grabbed her, dragged her into a nearby wood and sexually assaulted her before forcing her to perform sexual acts.
Two months later on 19 June, a 17-year-old girl was walking along Wheathampstead Road, when a man forced her into a car, drove down Piggotshill Lane and took her to the wood where he sexually assaulted her and forced her to perform sexual acts.
“We knew the same man was responsible for both these sexual assaults through DNA evidence but we needed to find him, and frustratingly he was not on the national database,” said Detective Inspector Justine Jenkins from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit. “As part of the police investigation, we found evidence linking Housden to the sexual assaults.”
She said: “These women, who are now aged in their 30s, went through an unimaginable experience which has blighted their lives and they have never had closure on their horrific ordeal, so we were determined, despite the time that had passed, to find the man responsible.
“I’m sure Housden thought he’d got away with it. These two brave women are pleased that he has finally been sentenced for his crimes.”
Extensive enquiries were carried out at the time, including the release of an e-fit of the suspect and a Crimewatch appeal. In 2022, on the 20th anniversary of the offences, detectives worked with Crimestoppers to offer a reward of up to £10,000 for anonymous information. DI Jenkins also appealed for the public’s help on BBC’s Crimewatch Live and one of the brave victims issued an impact statement.
A team of officers from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit worked on the assault investigation, known as Operation Reactivate, at the time and during a review of the case in 2022.
He pleaded not guilty to the offences in March this year, but changed his plea to guilty a month later, in April 2023. He was charged with a third kidnap of a 12-year-girl in 2004, which he denied. No further action was taken.
DI Jenkins added: “Legally, offences can only be sentenced under the guidelines that were in force at the time. If he was being sentenced today – over 20 years later – he would have been charged with different offences and would therefore have received a lengthier sentence.
“We regularly review cold cases, particularly serious sexual offences and murders, so if people have offended years ago, you never know when there may be a knock on the door.”
The women Housden attacked read impactive statements in court about the effects of their ‘terrifying’ ordeals in 2002.
The first, Miss D, said: “Your actions, Mr Housden, left a lasting scar, a dark matter, a tumour in the deepest recesses of my mind, that no matter how much I tried to move on, it remains and always will.”
The second, Miss B, said: “I never want to be described as a victim, I never want that moment in my life to define me, even though it does. I have lived with what happened to me in 2002 for over 20 years and I have pulled myself up from the darkest rock bottom.”
His Honourable Judge Francis Sheridan described the attacks on the two girls as ‘terrifying’ and said Housden’s behaviour “can only be described as monstrous.”
He told him “DNA will follow you” and said the police investigating team ‘were a credit to the Chief Constable”.