LONDON, March 15, 2009 -- As a licensed driver of one of London's respected black cabs, John Worboys appeared to be a man you could trust to get you home safely late at night. In reality, he carried out attacks on women for 13 years, undetected by the police.
The cabbie was convicted on Friday of drugging and carrying out sexual attacks on 12 women, one of whom he raped, between October 2006 and February 2008. The actual figure of his assaults is thought to be much higher. Police have linked him to 85 attacks dating back to 2002 and officers believe he could have preyed on hundreds more women.
Worboys would target lone and often drunken women stumbling out of West London nightclubs and bars. He operated late at night when business was lucrative and the women were most vulnerable.
With his charming and friendly manner, Worboys, using the name "Tony," would then trick his passengers into believing he'd just won large sums of cash by gambling. He would flash a bag of money and invite the young woman to celebrate his win, offering them a glass of champagne or vodka spiked with sedatives.
Once the drugs had taken effect, Worboys would pull over, climb into the back of his cab and sexually assault his victims. Then he drove them home.
A special police hotline has been set up for women to come forward. It's possible that many victims have been too frightened to report their ordeal or simply don't remember it, police said. A spokesman from Scotland Yard told ABC News the hotline had received a number of calls over the weekend.
The story made big headlines in Britain over the weekend. The so-called "taxi rapist" is being called one of the country's most prolific sex offenders ever.
London's licensed black cabs are known as being a safe ride home late at night. Londoners are regularly told to be careful using minicabs and to try to take a black cab home. Police leading the investigation say it was his position of trust that allowed Worboys to lure unsuspecting women into his cab.
"He presented a charming and affable countenance, all the while planning his assault and searching out women to prey on," Metropolitan Police Detective Inspector Dave Reid told reporters outside Croydon crown court.
Questions remain as to how Worboys was able to operate for so long undetected. An Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation has been launched.
It's thought that Worboys could have been prevented from attacking more victims after he was picked up by police in July 2007 for allegedly assaulting a 19-year-old woman. Detectives didn't send the case to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), and the suspect was let go without charge.
Worboys went on to attack up to six more women, including raping one, before he was arrested again in February 2008. When officers arrived at his house in Southeast London they discovered a "rape kit" in the trunk of his car containing alcohol, drugs, condoms and a sex toy.
British parliamentarians have welcomed the investigation, claiming that there are still failings in the police system when it comes to early detection of serial offenders. "It is clearly concerning that despite the Metropolitan Police arresting Worboys in the summer of 2007, he went on to attack more women," said Deborah Glass of the IPCC. A series of police blunders has led the IPCC to consider whether any individuals involved in the case should face misconduct or criminal charges.
Before Worboys, 51, became a licensed cab driver, he worked as an amateur porn star and stripper. Operating under the pseudonym "Terry the Minder," he stripped at bachelorette parties and in gay bars, and appeared in low-budget porn films.
One woman who fell for Worboys' charm was his ex-wife, Jean Clayton, who met him in a bar where he was booked to strip. She described their marriage as violent and abusive and revealed that Worboys had admitted to being a peeping-tom.
Speaking to the Daily Mirror, Clayton said that after the split she discovered he'd abused one of her children from a previous marriage. "John Worboys is the biggest pervert, he peeped at my children and sexually assaulted a drunk girl while we were married," Clayton said. "At the beginning I didn't know he was peeping. He would come home, his trousers covered with mud."
Worboys is due for sentencing April 21. He faces life in prison. With women still coming forward to report attacks the scale of his crime could only just be emerging.