September 2020

Woman, 53, claims infamous ‘Early Bird rapist’ spared her life during brutal 1985 sex attack because she chatted to him throughout the horrific knifepoint ordeal

A woman who was assaulted by the infamous ‘Early Bird rapist’ believes he spared her life because she ‘chatted’ to him throughout the brutal sex attack.

Yolande Kennedy, 53, was a teenager when she was raped at knifepoint by Christopher Clark, now 70, as she walked to work in North Stifford, Essex in 1985.

Her attacker held a knife to her back as she waited for the bus at around 6.15am, before dragging her into an isolated farmyard and sexually assaulting her.

Clark, who was nicknamed the ‘Early Bird rapist’ because he targeted women in the early hours, evaded justice for more than 30 years before a DNA match linked him to the crime in 2017.

He had already been serving a life sentence for another sexual offence when he was caught by a cold case unit weeks ahead of a parole hearing and handed another 13 years.

Ms Kennedy, who waived her right to anonymity, has now described how she survived the harrowing attack, explaining she kept ‘trying to communicate with him’ throughout.

Speaking to the Real Fix podcast, the mother-of-two said: ‘I was talking to him throughout while he was carrying out the attack.

‘I was asking him why he’s doing what he’s doing, trying to communicate with him.

‘I wanted to get through to him that I wasn’t just a piece of flesh, that I was a human being and this was totally wrong.

‘I’m convinced to this day that that was saved me as I managed to resonate with him person to person.

‘He ran off after that, but not before coming back to retrieve his knife on the floor that he’d left behind.

‘At that point I thought I was dead, that he was going to slit my throat, but thankfully he just decided to flee.’

Clark was jailed for life in 1997 over another attack in Bristol, and was just weeks away from a parole hearing when Essex Police made their breakthrough. 

Ms Kennedy’s case was reviewed by detectives in 2016, and a DNA match was found using advances in technology.

She waived her rights to anonymity and attended Basildon Crown Court in 2018, where she faced her attacker again for the first time in 33 years.

In a statement, the mother-of-two said: ‘You made me feel like nobody. You are a sad old man who will die in pain for what you have done.’ 

Clark was sentenced to a further 13 years for the attack and given a five year extended licence period. 

The serial sex offender, of HMP Lincoln, previously hit headlines when he attacked a teacher only three months after being freed from a 14-year prison sentence. 

Clark had pounced on his victim, placing a plastic bag over her head before he indecently assaulted her yards from a bail hostel in Bath where he was being held on probation.

He was jailed for life in 1997 after it emerged probation officers feared he would strike again but were powerless to prevent it.

Officers said they had been ‘waiting for something to happen’ as soon as he was freed after serving nine years of his 14-year term.

But they were helpless to prevent his release because his original sentence for rape was handed down before the 1991 Criminal Justice Act made it possible to keep offenders inside if they are still considered a risk to society.

Even members of Clark’s family at the time revealed that they had pleaded with the authorities to prevent his release.