April 2005

Gunman who terrorised young lovers gets 13 years

A FORMER soldier who put a courting couple through a terrifying sex ordeal at gunpoint more than 16 years ago has finally been brought to justice through major advances in DNA testing.

After the attack in February 1989 in Tunbridge Wells, David Kirby remained at large until last year when he was arrested on suspicion of committing child porn offences on the internet.

Because he had no previous convictions or cautions, his name had not appeared on the national DNA register.

But once he was arrested police painstakingly examined profiles taken from the 18-year-old victim and found a match with Kirby’s DNA.

Now the 48-year-old married father has started a 13-year jail sentence for the “wicked” offences that left the judge at Maidstone Crown Court almost speechless.

“I cannot find the words to express adequately what I am trying to understand they must have felt, because such an experience doesn’t bear thinking about,” Judge Andrew Patience, QC, said of the victims. “But that it was almost beyond words in itself, the horror has to be stated.”

The court heard how the teenager and her boyfriend, also 18, had been making love in a car in a car park in Fir Tree Lane, Tunbridge Wells.

John O’Higgins, prosecuting, said they were still naked when the woman heard her car door click open and turned to see a shotgun barrel poking through.

The boyfriend saw a man wearing a balaclava and a camouflage jacket. The single-barrel 12-bore shotgun was pointed at his head.

Kirby ordered the couple to lay face-down. He tied their hands behind their backs and blindfolded the youth with a scarf.

Mr O’Higgins said Kirby put the gun to the boyfriend’s head because he tried to look round, telling him: “Look again and I will blow your ******* head off.”

He put a bag over the woman’s head. The woman told him: “Take the car, take everything. Just don’t hurt us.” The desperate boyfriend pleaded with Kirby.

Kirby lifted the bag away from the woman’s face and kissed her. He then raped her.

He went away but then returned. He poked the gun into the woman’s side and made more threats.

After he left for good, the victims fled to a house where the woman was employed as a nanny.

Mr O’Higgins said extensive enquiries were made and an appeal was broadcast on Crime Watch on television, but to no avail.

Years later, police re-examined the victim’s clothing and DNA was taken from the crotch of her jeans. In the late 1990s, a profile was obtained.

“It was not until July 2004 that the profile from the jeans found its match on the national system,” said Mr O’Higgins. “A match was made with David Kirby. In the late 1990s, he was not known to the police – no convictions, no cautions.

“However, in 2004 as a result of Operation Ore, he was arrested for possession of indecent images of children and in due course was charged.

“As a consequence, his DNA was taken and put on the national system. A match occurred.”

A microscopic slide containing swabs from the woman was examined and, with a probability of one in a billion, a DNA match with Kirby was made.

He pleaded guilty to rape and two charges of false imprisonment on Thursday. At the time of the offences he was living in Tunbridge Wells and owned a shotgun.

Judge Patience ordered that Kirby, who had been living in Eastbourne, should be on licence for three years after his release. He will remain on the sex offenders’ register for life.