By CASSANDRA VINOGRAD
The Associated Press
Thursday, March 24, 2011; 8:25 AM
LONDON -- A London jury on Thursday convicted one of Britain's most notorious serial rapists, who preyed on the elderly for nearly two decades and may have assaulted scores of victims.
The jury at Woolwich Crown Court found Delroy Grant - dubbed the "Night Stalker" - guilty of 29 counts of attacks on 18 elderly men and women between 1992 and 2009.
Police say the number of Grant's victims is thought to be substantially more than that. Officers have looked into 203 offenses as part of the investigation.
Judge Peter Rook called the offenses "of the utmost gravity" and said Grant could be handed a life sentence on Friday.
Grant stood motionless in the dock with his head bowed as the foreman of the jury delivered the verdicts. An elderly victim and several relatives looked on and smiled from the public gallery.
Police called Grant's offenses some of the most "awful and disturbing crimes" Scotland Yard has ever investigated and the prosecution in the case called the attacks "the stuff of nightmares."
The attacker broke into homes, cut phone lines and crept into the bedrooms of his elderly victims during ordeals that lasted for hours. The victims were mostly elderly women; many were blind, deaf or had conditions including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
The 53-year-old Grant, a former cab driver and home-care aide to his second wife, was arrested in 2009 following one of Britain's longest running manhunts, codenamed Operation Minstead.
The Metropolitan Police task force formed Minstead - a randomly generated name - in 1998 to find the man.
After a series of interviews with victims in southeast London over the years, a pattern began emerging.
The telephone lines of the victims' homes were often disabled, and fuse boxes tampered with. Some described a person in a mask, waking them up by shining a flashlight in their faces.
More than 2,000 DNA samples were collected as part of the investigation, and in 2006, detectives traveled to Trinidad and Barbados after testing suggested the attacker might have Caribbean ancestry.
Branding Grant a "perverted, callous and violent individual," the head of the Metropolitan Police's homicide and serious crime unit said Friday his arrest and conviction allowed thousands of people in London to "go to sleep without the dreadful thought they would be preyed upon."
Still, Britain's police watchdog apologized for missed opportunities to catch Grant, saying the hunt to catch him was undermined by "basic policing errors."
The Independent Police Complaints Commission said a poor response to a burglary and confusion over a suspect - which saw the wrong man's DNA studied - prevented arresting Grant sooner.
"It is clear that a simple misunderstanding had horrific consequences," said Deborah Glass, the watchdog's commissioner for London.
Andrew Hadik, a senior lawyer with the Crown Prosecution Service, said the motive for Grant's crimes might never be known, because he had "steadfastly refused to admit any responsibility or to show any remorse."
At the time of his arrest, Grant said that police should not bother taking his fingerprints because he "always wore gloves."