Man sentenced to life after 'depraved' attack on elderly woman months after release from life term

101023 - ANTHONY ROBERTS - ITV News Central - West Mercia Police - Ellen Knight
Roberts, aged 56, has been jailed for life Credit: West Mercia Police

A man who stabbed a 71-year-old woman more than 50 times and threatened her with rape just months after being released from a life jail term has been sentenced to life in prison.

Anthony Roberts, aged 56, of Amber Heights, "charged" at his victim as she walked home alongside the River Severn in Worcester at around 2am on 7 May 2023. He has been sentenced to life behind bars with a minimum term of 19 years and 3 months.

Roberts stabbed her more than 50 times and threatened to kill her if she did not let him rape her - he bit her on the chest as she tried to dial 999 and fight him off.

The victim, a pensioner, suffered more than 50 wounds including serious injuries to her face, neck, chest, back, abdomen and legs.

Witnesses to the attack called for help and when West Mercia Police officers arrived at the scene, Roberts was found topless, covered in blood, and trying to escape the scene.

Roberts admitted to the charges of assault by penetration, attempted murder, and possession of a bladed article at Worcester Crown Court on 30 August 2023 and was convicted of attempted murder and sexual assault.

He was on licence at the time, having been released from a life sentence in prison just five months earlier.

Roberts was jailed for life in 1991 for attacks on several women that reportedly bore similarities to this attempted murder and sexual assault.

The riverside path where the attack took place Credit: Matthew Cooper/PA

"Depraved and ferocious"

A police search of Roberts' home revealed diaries with detailed sexual fantasies. Some entries stated that women "did not like [him]" and that Roberts "should not trust [women]."

CCTV showed him leaving his house at around 01:30am, just minutes before the attack.

Roberts denied the charges - but changed his plea to guilty after "overwhelming" evidence of his guilt was presented to the court.

Nicola Heath, Senior Crown Prosecutor for CPS West Midlands, said: "This was among the most depraved and ferocious attacks I’ve seen in my 20 years of working as a prosecutor.

"Roberts showed no remorse, and it is nothing short of a miracle that the victim did not die during what can only be described as a truly horrifying act of violence.

She continued: "Victims of sexual violence are left with the aftermath of a destructive and life-changing crime. Although this woman survived a terrifying ordeal, she will no doubt be left with the mental scars that remain long after the attack is over.

"Her bravery, determination and strength in being able to recount the events of that evening should not be lost on any of us and I hope today’s result provides a small sense of closure for the victim."

"This attack will haunt the victim"

After sentencing, Detective Chief Inspector Gareth Lougher from West Mercia Police said: "This was an incredibly violent attack on an innocent woman, which shocked the local community to the core.

"Thankfully, the victim survived but her road to mental and physical recovery will be a long one.  The outcome could have been very different.

"I’d like to commend her on the courage she has shown in helping us to bring her attacker to justice. 

"I have no doubt that the mental impact of this attack will haunt the victim for the rest of her life, but I hope that today’s sentence will allow her to begin to move forwards.

"I’d also like to take the opportunity to thank the team involved in bringing Roberts to justice.  He was located and arrested extremely quickly and charged within 24 hours of the attack. 

"I hope this case shows that we take violence incredibly seriously and won’t hesitate to take action against perpetrators."

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said: "This was a despicable crime and our heartfelt sympathies are with the victim and their family.

"A Serious Further Offence review is underway to establish the full facts of the case and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage."

A Parole Board spokesperson said: “Every serious further offence is a tragedy in which victims and their families’ lives are affected forever. Whilst these represent a tiny proportion of cases considered, one case is one tragedy too many and we take these extremely seriously. Where this happens, the Parole Board is committed to doing everything it can to learn the lessons that will help to prevent further tragedies.

“The Parole Board’s serious further offence rate is consistently around 0.5% and only 1 in 4 of the prisoners reviewed by the Board meet the legal test for release. The vast majority are ordered to remain behind bars for the protection of the public.

“The Board has a dedicated review process led by the Review Committee which closely examines and scrutinises any parole release decision after a serious further offence. This process involves outside experts, judges, psychologists, psychiatrists as well as senior management and is in place to identify any lessons that could help prevent further tragedies.

“Prisoners directed for release by the Board are released on licence to be managed in the community by the Probation Service. The Probation Service are able to recall an offender to custody at any point if their behaviour causes concern.”

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...