UK's longest serving prisoner sent back to jail for sexual assaulting woman after previous release

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Britain's longest-serving prisoner Ronald Evans has been sent back to jail after being convicted of sexual assault.

The 82-year-old killer and rapist has spent 52 years behind bars.

He has now been jailed again after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a woman in London in July last year. A jury acquitted him of two other assault charges.

Evans was first jailed for strangling 21-year-old Kathleen Heathcote to death in Mansfield, Notts, in 1963.

He was released in 1975 and went on to commit multiple rapes in Bristol.

The attacks sparked a hunt for 'the Clifton rapist' who was terrorising women on the city's streets. Evans was only stopped when a police sting was launched involving teenage officers acting as decoys to catch him.

Speaking in light of his latest conviction, the family of his murder victim have criticised the Parole Board for releasing Evans again to attack women.

Evans murdered Kathleen Heathcote in 1963 Credit: KATHLEEN_FAMILY_091123

"I think he's evil," Kathleen Heathcote's nephew Chris told ITV News.

"He's been treated very lightly. He should have served a life sentence - meaning life."

After being released from prison in 1975 following Kathleen's murder, Evans moved to a Bristol suburb where he lived with his wife and daughter.

But he continued his criminal behaviour, leading a double life and attacking seven women in stranger assaults between 1977 and 1979.

Avon and Somerset Police used its female officers as a honeytrap to catch Evans, dispatching them to walk around areas the Clifton rapist had attacked.

The daring sting worked and, on the morning of 23 March 1979, Evans followed Police Constable Michelle Tighe and tried to attack her.

Her backup team pounced on Evans and arrested him. He was convicted and jailed in July 1979. He remained in prison until his release in 2018.

Decoy officer Michelle Tighe caught Evans in 1979.

The court heard Evans moved to an area of North London in 2019 and became a volunteer at a community group.

He was accused of sexually assaulting a 53-year-old woman in July last year. He denied the counts, saying he was a "touchy-feely person".

Speaking after Evans' latest conviction, the police officer behind the previous sting operation to catch him said he'd obviously "persuaded people" he was safe for release.

Michelle told ITV News: "He probably gave the impression that he was over it or had enough therapy so that he was safe to be allowed out and had persuaded people who were looking after him. And he's out, committing offences again."

Ronald Evans has spent 52 years behind bars.

A spokesperson for Women Against Rape said of the case: "Despite being identified as a serial attacker by the police and courts, Evans has been repeatedly released and enabled to attack other women.

"In 1963 he only served 12 years after he had raped and murdered one poor woman – why do women’s lives and safety count for so little?

"This is a pattern we have complained about for years, and we call out the misogyny of the criminal justice system. Look at Savile and the Yorkshire Ripper where the police repeatedly ignored surviving victims’ descriptions. It tells us that women and girls are just not worth protecting."

Photofit images given by Evans's victims from 1977 to 1979

In response, a spokesperson for the Parole Board said its decisions are "solely focused" on what risk a prisoner could represent to the public if released and whether that risk is manageable in the community.  

"A panel will carefully examine a huge range of evidence, including details of the original crime, and any evidence of behaviour change, as well as explore the harm done and impact the crime has had on the victims," they added.

"Evidence from witnesses such as probation officers, psychiatrists and psychologists, officials supervising the offender in prison as well as victim personal statements may be given at the hearing.  

"Parole reviews are undertaken thoroughly and with extreme care. Protecting the public is our number one priority."