The Fox: Looking back on the evil rapist who terrorised Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire

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‘The Fox’. It is a name that may mean little to people as they go to bed each night. But once those two words spread terror across three counties.

It was the nickname given to a notorious rapist, who broke into people’s homes and committed a series of attacks on both men and women.

And 35 years ago this week, he made the error which finally led to him being caught.

The Fox was born Malcolm Fairley, the youngest of nine children from the Silksworth area of Sunderland.

As a teenager he got in trouble regularly for theft and burglary. He married at 19, and when that relationship failed he married again and became a father of three.

However by 1983 his second marriage was breaking down too. He moved south to Bedfordshire and began working as a labourer.

The following summer, his reign of terror would begin.

On April 11, 1984, Fairley committed his first-known sex attack.

He broke into a house in Linslade, then assaulted a 73-year-old woman in her own bed.

The following month he struck twice in one night. On May 10, he stole a 12-bore double-barrelled shotgun together with ammunition from a house in Cheddington.

Later he sexually assaulted a 35-year-old man.

He struck repeatedly during the long hot month of July.

On July 6, he broke into a home in Linslade where a young couple lay in bed. He tied them up, but this time the woman screamed, so Fairley fled.

Four days later he broke into another Linslade home, woke up a couple who were in bed, tied them up, and raped the woman.

On July 12 a woman saw him outside her home in Edlesborough and chased him away.

But the following night he broke into another house in the same village while armed with a shotgun. He tied up a teenage brother and sister along with the girl’s 21-year-old boyfriend.

He then raped the girl, left to go for a drink, and came back to rape the girl again. He also sexually assaulted the two young men.

On August 17, he made his fatal error. This time he raped a woman in Brampton-en-le-Morthen, South Yorkshire, as he travelled back to Sunderland. But he left clues at the scene.

He reversed his car into a tree, and paint lodged itself on the tree.

Police analysed it and found that less than 1,500 cars in the UK were this shade of harvest yellow.

Fairley made one more attack, on September 9, when he targeted a woman in Milton Keynes with a knife.

Two days later he was finally arrested.

Click here for part two for our exclusive feature