A RETIRED police officer who investigated the horrific 'cold case' rape committed by Carlisle man Paul Shakespeare has praised the courage of his victim.

Throughout more than 30 years after Shakespeare's terrifying “stranger rape” of the then 18-year-old woman, the victim battled every day to live with the knowledge that her attacker had evaded justice.

Haunted by her memories of the horrific 1990 attack, the woman eventually hit rock bottom and attempted suicide.

But a DNA match – made possible when Shakespeare was arrested for carrying a knife in a Carlisle park last year – finally gave police the evidence they needed.

A court heard this week how he selected his victim at random, dragging her into bushes and threatening her with a homemade weapon - a sharpened stick with a nai' driven througth it. He also threatened to "come back" for the teenager if she reported what had happened - a threat she ingored.

Mike Wilson, 74, was the police officer who led the original investigation in 1990.

At that time he was a Detective Sergeant with the local CID based at Cheltenham.

After Shakespeare, 66, was this week jailed for nine years, the retired officer said: "I've been involved in lots of investigations during my 31 years in the police service, but this horrendous crime always stayed in the back of my mind and never went away.

"When I met the victim on that day she was distraught.

"It was heart-rending to see.

"The initial investigation involved many teams, including forensics, and we were given all the help we needed to try and find who was responsible.

"We had the DNA but, with no match.

"What we were looking for was a name; for someone to contact us and put his name forward.

"Despite the crucial help from the media and a huge amount of publicity, which resulted in more than 60 witness statements being taken, that day never came and a name wasn't put forward.

"Eventually we had no further lines of inquiry, but the work didn't stop there and the case was often revisited over the years and later went to the cold case team.

"Being told that there was finally a DNA match more than 30 years later was great news.

"I hope that the courageous victim will find some closure in seeing the man responsible for this abhorrent crime behind bars, where he has deserved to be ever since that horrific day back in 1990.

"The message here is that we will never give up."

The courage shown by Shakespeare's victim, who attended the court hearing when he was sentenced, contrasted with his own callousness. Confronted by police at his home in Scaleby Close, Upperby, and told he was being arrested for rape, he laughed.

Mr Wilson added: "There is always a glimmer of hope for victims, and that people who commit such heinous crimes will continue to be sought until they are caught.

"Finally, I'd like to highlight the level of police team-work which has gone on over the years and thank those who have contributed to the investigation.

“A vast amount of hard work went into creating the original case file, which has been picked up and developed over the years, and can now finally be closed."

After the hearing at Gloucester Crown Court, which the victim - now in her 40s – said: "On the actual day of the assault, the police were quick to act with the situation and have throughout the years reassured me of their continued efforts, which has not gone amiss.

"Gloucestershire Constabulary remained respectful of my wishes throughout the investigation and I feel it important to mention that I was never forgotten and it was taken with utmost seriousness at all times, as well as the support I received which has been commendable."

The woman has had counselling to help her come to terms with her ordeal. 

The officer recently involved in the case, Detective Constable Simone Bowley, said: "This was a deeply horrifying incident which happened to a teenage girl who was walking her dog on a late Sunday afternoon.

"We heard details in court today of how scared she was that day, fearing for her life, and the significant damage, trauma and pain this has caused her in the years which have followed.

"That young woman was immensely courageous, and her bravery since then has not wavered.

"She has had to wait for more than 30 years to hear Shakespeare admit his abhorrent crimes and watch him get jailed.

"From day one she worked with police, and she continued to work with us when the case was reopened and reviewed over this time, in the hope that one day he would be caught.

"I am pleased for her that this day has come and I truly hope she can now get the closure which she has deserved for all of these years.”

If you have experienced rape, sexual assault or abuse, and wish to report the crime, contact police by calling 101 or 999 in the case of an emergency.

Police say that they will investigate such crimes no matter how long ago they happened.

In Cumbria, victims are supported through the investigation process with the help of experts at the The Bridgeway. Find out more at thebridgeway.org.uk.

There is also ample information about the support available at Cumbria Constabulary website. Simply search on the site for 'Rape and Sexual Assault'.