In the Media

Rapist who tracked down victim he met online is jailed for life

PUBLISHED August 4, 2006

A convicted rapist who became obsessed with a woman he met in cyberspace was jailed for life last week after he hunted her down and subjected her to a series of sexual assaults in a night-long ordeal.

David Jeanette, 42, from Portsmouth, was found guilty of making a threat to kill and three counts of rape at Southampton crown court. The jury heard how Jeanette had met his victim in 2004 through an internet dating agency and declared that he wanted to marry her.

But when details of his criminal past came to light, the woman fled. It emerged he had served more than seven years in jail for twice raping a former girlfriend, had punched a former partner in the face, and had threatened an eight-year-old girl with a knife. The woman changed her name and moved to a secret address in Southampton.
Insisting that he had escaped his violent past, Jeanette embarked on a campaign to win her back, bombarding her with emails claiming: "This leopard has changed his spots." When that failed to elicit a response, he tricked one of her friends into revealing her address.

One evening in May last year he entered the house after being let in by the victim's son while she was taking a bath. "I felt panic," she told the court. "He said he didn't want to hurt me but talk to me. I told him to leave, but he refused. I told him not to touch me and he laughed. The look on his face was expressionless."

Jeanette, who denied the charges and forced the victim to give evidence in court, repeatedly raped her throughout the night, before warning that he would kill both her and her son if she went to the police. "I won't go down for rape, but for murder," he told her.

Sentencing, Judge David Griffiths described Jeanette as a "very dangerous man". "You kept her virtual prisoner for the entire night," he told the defendant. "You repeatedly ignored her requests to stop and leave. It was a terrible catalogue of crime. It was prolonged, vicious and frightening. Anything other than a life sentence would not be appropriate."

The case has raised concerns about the safety of internet dating websites, which have more than 6 million registered users in the UK.

But a spokesman for one of Britain's longest-established online agencies said: "Any misdemeanours can be reported to us and we can remove the perpetrator from the site. We are like wardens ... You don't get that level of security if you meet a stranger in a bar or club."