The Fox: Looking back at the trial and investigation into the evil rapist who terrorised Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire

Malcolm Fairley was arrested at 7.30pm on September 11. He confessed his crimes to police almost immediately.

Three days later he appeared at Dunstable Magistrates’ Court on September 14, 1984, and faced three charges of rape, two of burglary, and possession of a firearm.

By the time he appeared at St Albans Crown Court this had expanded to three rapes, two indecent assaults, three aggravated burglaries and five burglaries.

And he asked the court to take into consideration a

further 68 cases.

Fairley was handed six life sentences.

In his defence, Fairley said: “I wanted to stop it but I couldn’t.

“When I got the gun I felt I could get what I wanted.”

Justice Caulfield was not impressed.

Sentencing, he told Fairley: “There are degrees of wickedness beyond condemnatory description. Your crimes fall within this category.

“You desecrated and

defiled men and women in their own homes.”

The area where Fairley operated became known as the ‘Rape Triangle’ because of his crimes – with the

corner points at Tring,

Leighton Buzzard and Dunstable. Police swamped the area to both ease the residents’ mind and try to find The Fox, while families were advised to sleep all in one room.

This case was one of the first to use the police ‘supercomputer’ HOLMES – aka the Home Office Large Major

Enquiry System.

Neighbours would set up systems of flashing lights to let each other know that they were safe, and some would remove door knobs to stop him from getting in.

Because Fairley would often eat snacks while waiting for his victims to return, police named the investigation ‘Operation Peanut’.

Meanwhile his monicker ‘The Fox’ came from his habit of making ‘camps’ from blankets in victims’ houses.