An ex-soldier who was serving a 25-year jail term for raping and sexually abusing women and teenage girls has died after catching COVID in prison.
Dennis Smalley, 70, was jailed in 2016 after he raped seven teenage girls and women, and sexually abused four other girls, in a campaign of terror lasting 45 years.
An official report published on Monday by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, which carries out independent investigations into complaints and deaths in custody, confirms Smalley died in hospital of COVID pneumonia on 16 March while a prisoner at high-security HMP Wakefield.
The report says Smalley had not left Wakefield in the weeks before he became ill and “it appears, therefore, that he caught COVID in prison”.
It stated that Smalley first followed advice from staff at the prison to shield due to coronavirus in 2020.
He received his first vaccine dose on 25 February this year, but tested positive on 2 March.
The report adds his condition deteriorated and he was taken to hospital on 11 March, where he died five days later.
Investigators were satisfied the prison had “appropriate policies and procedures in place and had taken reasonable steps to manage the risk to prisoners, including Mr Smalley, of being infected”.
A senior detective who led the investigation into the former military bandsman said he left a “trail of destruction” through the lives of his 11 victims.
Detective Constable Claire Hughes said after the court sentencing hearing: "I have had the displeasure of dealing with some truly repugnant individuals during my time with Greater Manchester Police, but Dennis Smalley is without doubt one of the worst I have ever encountered.
"He is a man seemingly incapable of inflicting anything other than misery upon the unfortunate women and girls he encountered during his life.
"The trail of destruction this man wreaked through the lives of so many young girls and women is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to repair.”
The Manchester Evening News reported Smalley, from Hindley in Wigan, attacked one woman shortly after she had given birth.
One woman was raped, sexually abused and attacked by him for more than a decade, and many of his victims were young teenagers.
Liverpool Crown Court heard Smalley's abuse started in the 1970s and continued for almost 45 years.
Smalley was jailed after being found guilty by a jury of 44 charges – 25 rapes, 16 counts of either indecent assault or indecency with a child, two serious sexual offences and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
Watch: Do coronavirus vaccines affect fertility?