Detectives solve Rainham sex assault cold case after DNA breakthrough

Gary Preston (Met)
Gary Preston (Met)

Detectives have brought a sex attacker to justice decades after his assault on a woman in east London thanks to crucial DNA evidence.

Gary Preston admitted sexual assault and knife possession after police caught up with him 34 years after he attacked his victim, then 25, in public toilets in Rainham.

His victim described him to police and e-fit picture was circulated but detectives drew a blank in the 1980’s.

However, following advances in forensic technology, a DNA profile was developed from the retained samples on clothing and matched to Preston in 2019.

Preston, 64, of Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk was jailed for five years and three months at Woolwich Crown Court on Thursday.

E-fit from the 1980s of sex attacker (Met)
E-fit from the 1980s of sex attacker (Met)

Traces of DNA were found on the victim’s coat her coat. Forensic officers held the coat in storage as a crucial part of evidence. At the time of the crime there was no national DNA database.

Detective Constable Paul Hawthorn, who carried out the cold case investigation, said: "I am pleased the victim-survivor of Preston’s awful crimes has finally got the justice she deserves.

"He targeted a lone, young women for his own sexual gratification and it is right he now faces a significant time in custody.

"I hope the outcome of this case demonstrates we will do all we can to bring sexual predators to justice and sends a clear message that we will not give up, no matter the length of time that has passed, using new developments in technology to progress investigations.”

The court heard how Preston, wearing a balaclava to conceal his identity, attacked the woman, muffling her screams with a scarf. He threatened her with a knife before forcing her to commit a sexual act.

In his 2019 interview, Preston denied the claims and claimed he had dementia. Medical experts refuted this and officers used the DNA evidence to link him to the assault.