In March 2004, 49-year-old Antoni Imiela was convicted of a series of shocking sexual attacks on young girls and women across five counties in England, earning him the moniker the ‘M25 rapist’ due to the locations of his attacks. He was given a total of seven life sentences for his crimes with a further 12 years added after DNA evidence revealed another attack he was responsible for in 1987. Surprisingly, after serving just 14 years he was referred to the Parole Board for a review in January 2018.
In a similar case to that of John Worboys, a London black cab driver convicted in April 2009 for a multitude of rapes and who has also been considered for parole this year, many were outraged that a man with such heinous convictions could be on track to be let out of prison. For Antoni Imiela, however, he will never obtain that freedom. The 63-year-old died unexpectedly from heart problems on 8 March 2018 after being taken to hospital from HMP Wakefield where he was serving his sentence.
“In most cases you made threats to kill, dragging them into the cover of undergrowth and most thought they would die at your hands.”
Born in Germany, Imiela moved the United Kingdom with his parents when he was 7-years-old. Reported to be a dysfunctional family with a domineering father who often beat him, his mother left the family home when he was 14-years-old in 1968. This, it appears, was the catalyst for Imiela’s descent into crime and deviant behaviour which became more serious and more violent the older he became. His behaviour sent him to a Borstal Youth Offenders Institution for a period, before 1987 when he carried out an armed robbery in a post-office in Darlington in Kent, earning himself a 14-year jail sentence.
In 1996, at 44-years-old Imiela was released from prison and soon married, settling in the Kent area. Five years later, he began a series of attacks which lasted almost a year and took place in London, Surrey, Hertfordshire, and Birmingham, all flowing from the central M25 motorway. Once investigators realised there was a serial rapist at work, police forces joined resources in what became the biggest manhunt since the hunt for Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, 23 years previously.
Imiela was a railway maintenance worker and he utilized the motorway to travel to various areas and carry out his attacks following the same MO each time. He would target young girls or women walking alone from behind and drag them into nearby undergrowth or woodland. He was violent and often used a knife to subdue his victims, threatening them continually as he carried out his assault. His victims were stripped, assaulted, and left tied up while he made his getaway, with his final words being if they screamed he would come back to hurt them again.
On 11 July 2002, he attacked two women in one day, both in Surrey. His victims ranged in ages from as young as 10-years-old up to 52-years-old. After attacking one woman, he used her mobile phone to call her mother and brag what he had just done to her daughter. To another teenage victim, he said, “This will not hurt you physically, you will just be emotionally scarred.”
In October 2002, he abducted and raped a 14-year-old girl at knife-point in Stevenage, Herefordshire. The victim was able to provide a detailed description of her attacker which was released on television’s Crimewatch, resulting in a viewer calling in and naming Antoni Imiela as a suspect. Police immediately tracked down Imiela and took a DNA sample from him.
Knowing the police had DNA evidence linking the attacks to the ‘M25 rapist’, Imiela had no doubt been following the news coverage on the hunt for him over the previous months. In what prosecutors later called a ‘final act of defiance’, two days after giving a DNA sample to police, he traveled to Birmingham on the M25 and abducted a 10-year-old girl, keeping her in his car for six hours while he assaulted her.
“He was told it would take a week or so for the result. He must have realised he would be caught. Two days later, in a final act of defiance, he drove to Birmingham.”
Antoni Imiela was arrested in December 2002 and went on trial at Maidstone Crown Court in Kent. He was charged with nine counts of rape against eight victims, as well as kidnap, indecent assault, and attempted rape of a further three victims. Alongside the DNA evidence, Explore Forensics reports the fibers found on some of the victim’s clothes were also linked to Imiela. Mobile phone evidence and the use of bank cards confirmed his whereabouts at the times of the attacks, and a fingerprint was also found on a pillow he used during one attack. He denied all charges and claimed that the forensic evidence against him was incorrect and a mistake.
Prosecuting attorney Mark Dennis QC told the court, “The motivation would appear to be purely sexual, coupled with the excitement of the risks he was taking and the sexual domination involved.”
He was found guilty of raping seven women and girls in March 2004 and given seven life sentences. He was also found guilty of the assault and attempted rape of the 10-year-old girl he abducted in Birmingham and given a further 29 years for her attack.
On 22 May 2012, after he had been in prison for eight-years, Antoni Imiela was found guilty at London’s Old Bailey of a further sex attack on then 31-year-old Sheila Jankowitz carried out on 25 December 1987. Mrs. Jankowitz was dragged off the street and behind a shed in south-east London where she was repeatedly hit and threatened before being raped.
With the unexpected death of Antoni Imiela, the debate over his possible release ends. He was serial rapist called “a ruthless sexual predator” whose victims have to live with what he did to them for the rest of their lives. A senior officer who worked on the case commented, “You would have to look for a very long time to find someone as bad as this.”