How Leicestershire detective Sophie McMahon caught a sex attacker
A detective who brought a predatory sex attacker to justice believes he would have gone on to commit more serious crimes if he had not been stopped.
Detective Constable Sophie McMahon spoke about the incident after being named among the officers, volunteers and staff honoured by Chief Constable Simon Cole for their outstanding work.
She led the investigation – codenamed Operation Quayside – which brought "high- risk" offender Neil Bentley to justice.
Bentley, who was later jailed for an indeterminate period, began following women in the Clarendon Park and Hinckley Road areas of the city some time in 2008.
He later began physically assaulting his victims from behind, often capturing their terrified screams on his mobile phone.
Initially, the 15 attacks were not linked, but Det Con McMahon, who had only just arrived in the sexual offences investigation unit, spotted a pattern.
She later obtained compelling DNA evidence to match Bentley to the attacks.
She said: "He would drive around in his van to target his victims, who were mostly young women. There was definitely an escalation in his offending, from following women in the day, then at night and then he began sexually touching them.
"I am convinced he would have gone on to commit even more serious offences, so I'm very happy to have played my role in stopping him."
In June, 2010, a judge at Leicester Crown Court described Bentley, then of Benbow Rise, Braunstone, as a dangerous sexual predator and handed him an indeterminate sentence of imprisonment for public protection.
He was also the first person in Leicestershire to be sentenced for possession of violent "extreme" pornography.
The chief constable also recognised a team of officers from across the region after they captured a gang of criminals which carried out a series of violent cash-in-transit robberies across the Midlands, including a raid in Anstey.
The seven members of the gang, who stole high-performance cars to target security officers as they delivered or collected cash, were traced and jailed for a total of 46 years.
Detective Chief Inspector Lecky Grewal, who led the team, said: "They were a highly-organised crime group and they were not scared of using violence to get what they wanted."
Pc Gary Kendall and Pc David O'Sullivan received an award from the Royal Humane Society for saving the life of a man who had been found hanging from a tree in an apparent suicide attempt in Leicester in January, 2012.
Pc Kendall said: "We managed to lift him up, get him down and then put him into the recovery position.
"We did what we are trained to do and we were able to make sure his life did not end that day.
"We both feel extremely honoured to receive the award, but policing is very much a team effort."
The Blaby Police Volunteers won the title of Leicestershire volunteers of the year – for the fourth time in five years.
They have worked alongside police to spread the crime prevention message, combat bogus callers and help victims of crime to rebuild their lives.
Group leader Jeremy Collingridge said: "It is an extraordinary privilege for our team to work alongside our police colleagues to help bring the kind of policing that our community wants and do it to the best of our ability."
Speaking after Wednesday night's ceremony, the second of two held at Leicestershire Police headquarters in Enderby, Mr Cole said: "One of the great privileges of being chief constable is give out awards on nights like this to members of the public, our volunteers, members of the Special Constabulary, staff and officers.
"As well as lives being saved, my officers have conducted investigations into very serious crimes which have led to criminals receiving, entirely appropriately, significant prison sentences."
Winners from Tuesday night's ceremony were highlighted in the Mercury yesterday.