Rape victim's brave message to waiting police

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FOR almost 13 hours, the woman had been held hostage at knifepoint by a convicted sex attacker who repeatedly raped her as police stood outside his home trying to negotiate her release.

But when Sean McKay fell asleep, his terrified victim finally saw the chance to end her horrific ordeal.

She could not risk wakening him by calling out to the police, but she was able to scrawl the message, "Force the door", in condensation on a window for officers to see. She then rushed to the front door, and began to haul at the furniture that McKay had stacked behind it as a barricade, while police pushed from the other side. The officers managed to pull her to safety just as McKay woke up, dashed into the hall and tried to grab her.

The case has sparked calls for a fresh examination of how sex offenders are monitored after it emerged that McKay had two previous convictions for sex attacks, had been assessed as likely to reoffend and had been under supervision.

McKay, 40, lured the woman to his flat in Sunnybank Terrace, Abbeyhill, Edinburgh, on the night of 23 January. She thought he was just another customer who had agreed to buy one of the paintings that she sold door-to-door in the city.

There was no way she could have known she was to become the latest victim of a man with a history of sex attacks, and who was being monitored as someone likely to strike again.

McKay is facing a life sentence after admitting abducting and repeatedly raping the woman, but, in an unusual move, he was allowed to remain in the cells at the High Court in Edinburgh yesterday as details of the woman's ordeal were outlined.

The judge, Lord Kinclaven, was told that McKay had a history of mental health problems, and that his condition could worsen markedly if he were exposed to extreme stress. He was on suicide watch in prison, and he had indicated he did not want to listen to details of his crime, although he had been informed of what was to be said.

McKay did enter the dock to hear his lawyer, Robbie Burnett, state: "He has asked me publicly to express, in particular to the complainer, his shame and regret that the offences occurred."

The offences were not the first to lead McKay to the High Court.

In 1991 he was jailed for five years after a 16-hour siege at a flat in East Claremont Street, Edinburgh. In a separate incident, he had sexually assaulted a 14-year-old schoolboy.

And in 1996, he was given an eight-year sentence for indecency against a 16-year-old boy whom he had kept prisoner in a flat in Castleview House, Moredun, Edinburgh.

Yesterday, Alex Prentice, QC, prosecuting, said that in the past McKay had been a patient at the State Hospital in Carstairs and the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, and when at liberty he had a "substantial support package".

He went on: "He is a registered sex offender and is monitored by the offender management unit of Lothian and Borders Police. He is visited by an officer from the unit on a three-monthly basis and has been previously assessed as being at high risk of reoffending.

"At the time of the offence he was not the subject of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order."

The woman, a foreign national, worked in a team, going round houses and businesses selling paintings. They operated alone, but kept in contact with their manager, who followed in a van. On 23 January, the woman called at the Sea Breeze Caf in Abbeyhill, and met McKay, who was having a meal. They got into conversation, and he showed an interest in nude paintings of women. The manager took such a painting to the caf, and the woman offered to take it to McKay's flat so he could see it on the wall.

After that initial visit, she returned at about 9pm, by which time McKay was supposed to have arranged to have the cash payment. He said a friend was to bring round the money but the woman was growing concerned.

McKay then suddenly jumped up and made for her with a large kitchen knife. "His demeanour had completely changed and he seemed very angry and agitated. He told her that people were following him and wanted to do bad things to him. She was terrified," Mr Prentice said.

"He pushed her into the bedroom, telling her to do as he told her or he would cut her head off and then kill himself, stating that he had nothing to lose. She replied that she would do anything he wanted so long as he didn't hurt her."

The woman was too scared to fight back and did not struggle as McKay raped her, and then raped her again. He allowed her to phone her manager, who, from her answers to him, guessed that something had happened, and he said he would call the police.

McKay told the woman his plan was to make the police come and then he would kill an officer and himself. She felt he was using her as a way to draw police to the flat. He switched off all the lights, closed the curtains and barricaded the front door. There was a full emergency response by the police, including armed officers and negotiators.

McKay said he had not taken his medication, and that social workers and police were following him, and he had had enough and wanted to kill himself. The woman had been "in the wrong place at the wrong time", Mr Prentice said.

McKay raped her twice more in the hours after police arrived. At 10am the next day, he took a number of tablets and fell asleep. It was then the woman spotted her opportunity, and wrote the message in the condensation to a policeman in the rear garden. Her nightmare was nearly over.

Mr Prentice said: "It was clearly a horrific ordeal. However, she stated that she wished to put it behind her and return home. She reported some sleep disturbance, panic and anxiety. It is likely that the full effects may take some time to manifest themselves."

Lord Kinclaven deferred sentence on McKay until July, to obtain a risk assessment report that could lead to a lifelong restriction order, under which McKay would remain in jail until it was deemed safe to release him, and then be monitored stringently in the community.