Bristol rape survivor criticises judge who allowed 'dangerous' attacker to flee Britain

  • 'We came so close to getting him off the streets' - Carly Carter speaks exclusively to ITV News

The survivor of a rapist who has been on the run from British authorities for sixteen years says he should never have been released on bail.

Carly Carter was attacked by Mohammed Zamani in Bristol in June 2005.

Despite having fled the country and being arrested on his return, Zamani was granted bail ahead of his trial.

Within weeks, he had skipped the country again.

He was tried and convicted in his absence last week and given a 16-year prison sentence.

Mohammed Zamani, who police believe has fled to Iran. Credit: Avon and Somerset Police

Miss Carter has bravely waived her right of anonymity to criticise Judge Carol Hagen who granted Zamani bail at a hearing in November 2005.

'I could have had closure'

"The police were so good," the 37-year-old said. "And they did everything right. And we came so close to getting him off the streets. And it was that one judge, Carol Hagen, who let him go.

"I knew from the moment he was given bail it was inevitable he was going to go (abroad)," Miss Carter told ITV News.

"I could have had closure 16 years ago. And that’s a long time to carry this. And there’s no doubt in my mind he’s out there doing it to other women. And we came so close to stopping that.

"I felt numb. I was numb for years. Everyone else around me was getting angry and it wouldn’t sink in."

The attack

Carly Carter Credit: CARLYSTUDIO_16092021_ITV

Miss Carter was returning home from a night out in central Bristol in June 2005 when she was attacked by Zamani.

His DNA was left at the scene and he was identified as a potential suspect soon afterwards.

When officers went to arrest him, he had already left the country and his car was found at Heathrow Airport.

DNA samples taken from his car matched the scene of Miss Carter’s attack.

Zamani was arrested when he returned to the UK. He admitted having sexual contact with Miss Carter and another woman who was the victim of an attempted rape in Bristol in 2003.

Zamani has been on the run for the past sixteen years. Credit: Avon and Somerset Police

But he denied both offences.

He was charged on November 11, 2005, and appeared at Bristol Crown Court where Judge Hagen granted him bail on the condition he wear a security tag and surrender his passport.

He failed to attend his next hearing and has been wanted ever since.

Miss Carter told ITV News why she wanted to waive her right to anonymity:

"I’ve waited 16 years to tell my story. I want to get his face out there, I want to get his name out there. And I think if people can see a face to tie to a story, more people might come forward."

Miss Carter described the shock of her attack, and how she found herself unable to react.

"You never think it’s going to happen to you, but I would have just assumed that if anyone had attacked me I would scream and fight and scratch and do everything I could. But it doesn’t work like that.

"I was frozen with fear and praying it would be over and I would survive it. I couldn’t make a noise. There was nothing there. And I think it’s important to tell people that that does happen."

Miss Carter, who works in IT, revealed she had self-harmed and attempted suicide in the years following her attack and Zamani’s release on bail.

She feared he would never face justice.

The case was re-investigated by Avon and Somerset Police and Zamani, who is now 52, was tried in his absence at Bristol Crown Court earlier this month.

It took a jury 24 minutes to convict Zamani of rape and attempted rape Credit: COURT_16092021_ITV

Miss Carter gave live evidence without the use of a screen before the court.

It took the jury just 24 minutes to convict Zamani of Miss Carter’s rape and the attempted rape from 2003.

"I don’t think I’d allowed myself to believe that it could be guilty," Miss Carter continued.

"I didn’t realise I’d been holding my breath for so long. I felt validated when they read out ‘guilty.’

"To have such a long sentence given as well – it made me feel believed. And that it was really serious what happened to me."

'I hate him'

Asked if Miss Carter thinks he will face justice, she replied: "I have to believe he does. I can’t begin to process that he wouldn’t. I think he’ll slip up and make a mistake and they’ll get him. I have to believe that.

"People like that don’t stop until they’re caught and put away.

"I hate him. And that’s not something I say lightly. I hate him for what he did to me and the other person and I hate him for what he’s likely doing now. It is all-encompassing."

Det Sgt Nic Lawson, of Avon & Somerset Police, told ITV News: "We are desperate tolocate him, wherever he may be in the world.

"When he left, he left not using his passport. We, as a police force, have his passport. It’s my honest-held belief that someone has helped him.

"Someone has helped him get another passport in another name and left this country, we believe, from Heathrow Airport.

"We need to speak to that person who helped him.

"I believe he is a real danger. For whatever reason, whatever he believes in his mind that he is able to do, he is wrong.

"It is my belief that there are other women who were attacked by Mr Zamani. And I would urge them to come forward."

Judge Hagen has since retired.

The Judicial Office told ITV News: "Whether or not to grant bail is a decision of the courts to make within the statutory framework provided by Parliament in the Bail Act 1976 taking account of relevant case-law.

"The Bail Act provides for a general presumption that bail will be granted in all cases, except in specific circumstances."

If you have been affected by Carly Carter's story, or have been the victim of sexual violence, click here for support or contact your local Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC).