Cold case rape in Bedford is solved after almost 20 years

Scales of Justice
Scales of Justice

A woman who was brutally raped in Bedford almost 20 years ago has finally seen her attacker brought to justice – thanks to DNA.

Clapham man Donald Kargbo-Reffell, 49, was this week found guilty of the rape he committed in June 1999.

His DNA profile was traced as part of Operation Painter, an initiative run by the local police Major Crime Unit to review cold case rapes and sex offences from decades ago.

Forensic evidence recovered at the time of the crime was re-examined, and advances in the science resulted in a positive match to Kargbo-Refell, say police.

Luton Crown Court heard how the married victim, who was then in her 30s, was walking home along Bromham Road after visiting a family member when she was grabbed around the throat from behind.

She was dragged into some bushes and raped – an experience that has haunted her ever since.

In her victim statement she said: “I never want anyone else to go through the suffering that I have been through and still go through. I am pleased that the police re-opened this case after all this time.”

At the time of the attack, officers conducted several lines of enquiry in a bid to trace the offender, but it was not possible to identify him.

Karbo-Reffell, of Princess Street, was arrested earlier this year after the new DNA evidence came to light.

He pleaded not guilty and the trial lasted for seven days. He has now been remanded in custody to await sentencing in November.

After the case, Detective Chief Superintendent Mark Lay, the officer in charge of Operation Painter, said: “This is the third success under Operation Painter thanks to advancements in DNA and forensic science, allowing us to review cases dating back decades.

“This further proves the importance of this work in revisiting past cases in order to bring evil predators to justice and deliver a form of closure for their victims.”

The team is currently reviewing in excess of 1,600 crimes dating back as far as 1974 across three counties.

If you have been the victim of rape or sexual assault you can call 101 and receive support and guidance from Bedfordshire Police and partner agencies including the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC), the Emerald Centre.