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Cambridge Rapist Peter Cook

60 officers hunted for the Cambridge rapist. Peter Cooks trial took place in Norwich Crown Court on 3rd October 1975. He was charged with seven rapes and two woundings.

Peter Cook Known Hooded Rapist

Peter Cook known as the hooded rapist because of a bizarre leather mask he wore during his crimes. And the media dubbed him the Cambridge Rapist.


Prior to his sexual offences, Cook already had a lengthy criminal history, having been a prolific burglar, and had served numerous prison sentences. As a young man he had made escapes from approved schools, and he later absconded from prisons on several occasions, becoming known as one of Britain’s most wanted escapees. He was active in killing as far as known between October 1974 and April 1975. Then to be known as the Cambridge Rapist.

Peter Samuel Cook Crime

The young woman got out of the bath, dried herself and put on her dressing gown. As she settled on her bed and switched on her cassette player, she noticed how quiet the house in Springfield Road was. Set in the heart of Cambridge, it usually reverberated to the sound of music, laughter and the comings and goings of the other youngsters who lodged there. But on the evening of 19th October 1974 all the other residents were out, and the secretary was alone in her top floor flat.


Suddenly her bedside light flickered and went out, and the music stopped. The woman listened in the darkness; on the landing outside her room the floorboards creaked. Nervously she went to the doorway and called out. There was no reply. She closed the door and locked it. But as she fumbled in a drawer for some matches to light a candle, she heard the sound of a key being inserted in the lock.


The terrified woman ran to the door and tried to force it shut. But the intruder was far too strong. He pushed her roughly to the floor. Twisting her head round, she could see the outline of a stocky man standing over her, holding her hands behind her back. “I’ve got a sharp knife,” he warned her. “One silly move and there will be a lot of blood.”


Swiftly, he tied her hands together with a blouse he took from a drawer and slipped a pillowcase over her head. He told her: “I came to rob you, but I think I’ll rape you instead.” After assaulting the young woman he took £12 from her purse and left. The terrifying reign of the Cambridge Rapist had begun.


At Cambridgeshire police headquarters in Huntingdon, CID Chief Charles Naan organised a special squad to investigate the attack. Naan noted that because it was dark the victim’s description had been vague:


A man about 20, fairly short about five feet four inches. Unfortunately, in this part of the country there were plenty of men who fitted the description: Newmarket, famous for horse-racing, is only 10 miles from Cambridge and the home to scores of short, stocky jockeys, apprentices and stable lads.


Less than two weeks later police realised that the first attack was not an isolated case when another young woman was raped in her home in Abbey Road. The victim, a 20-year-old student, was in the bath when the lights went out. After putting on her dressing gown, she went to the landing and called out to one of her flatmates. In the darkness she could hear someone running up the stairs. Before the student knew what was happening, she was pushed to the floor by a powerful, stocky man. The frightened girl tried to resist, but her attacker forced a pad soaked with ether over her face and told her: “Shut up or I will kill you.”


Tied & Gagged


He pushed her into her bedroom, and tied her hands behind her back with a pair of tights and stuffed a handkerchief in her mouth as a gag. As he forced himself on her, the girl spat out the hanky. “You’re hurting me,” she sobbed. Her attacker seemed pleased. “That’s good, that’s good,” was his cruel reply. After raping the young woman he vanished into the night.


Once again the victim’s description of her attacker was poor. She said he was about five feet four inches in height and in his 20s. It had obviously been the work of the same man who had struck in Springfield Road.


Then on 11th November a bizarre incident occurred at a house in Huntingdon Road. A woman in her 20s was ironing when there was a noise in her back garden. She opened the door and thought she heard someone scrambling over the fence. She reassured herself that it was probably a cat and thought no more of it.


Masked & Dressed In Leather

Twenty minutes later her doorbell rang. ‘When I opened it there was a man standing there. He was wearing a light brown shoulder-length wig and a grey knitted scarf wrapped round the bottom half of his face. He wore a black leather jacket and black leather gloves. Apart from that, he was naked,” the young woman later told the police. The masked man launched himself at the woman, pushing her across the kitchen. But this time the rapist had met his match. She picked up the iron and tried to hit him over the head. As he put his hands up to defend himself, she kicked him in the groin. The man doubled up with pain, and then limped hurriedly away. Police thought the woman was intended to be victim number three.


Two days later the sex fiend struck again. This was the most horrifying attack yet. On the evening of 13th November a young music student at Homerton Ladies College, on the outskirts of the city, went to a block of soundproofed music rooms to practice. After five minutes the room was plunged into total darkness. The student groped her way to the door to find out what the problem was. As she stepped into the corridor a man leapt out and pushed a chloroform pad over her mouth and nose. The girl struggled and screamed, and her attacker told her: “I’m going to murder you.” Forcing her to the ground, he said: “I am not a murderer, I am the rapist. He then placed a sack over her head and dragged her from the building and across a field to a shed.


The rapist’s fifth attack, on 8th December in Owlstone Road, was also on a student. As 21-year-old was asleep in her room when she was woken up by a bright light shining in her eyes. A voice warned her: “Don’t scream, I have got a knife.”


“The Police Will Never Catch Me”

The woman tried to switch on a light, but it did not work. As in his last attack, the intruder placed an ether-soaked pad over his victim’s face and tied and gagged her with tights. Then he forced the woman at knifepoint down the stairs and into the back garden. He grabbed some more tights off the washing fine to use as a blindfold, and then raped her on the lawn. As he left, the rapist told her: “The police will never catch me. I have got a car and I’ll be in London before they can do anything.”


The student later told police that there was no sound of a car, but she thought she heard someone riding away on a bicycle. She also said the rapist had mentioned her boyfriend’s name. Detectives wondered if her attacker was someone she knew, or whether he was carefully researching his victims.


The police still had no clues about the attacker’s identity when, on 15th December, he returned to the scene of one of his previous crimes. At the house in Huntingdon Road where the woman had beaten off her attacker, a 21-year-old woman in an upstairs flat awoke to find a torch beam shining in her eyes. A knife was pressed against her throat and she was tied up and raped. As she struggled to get free, her attacker slashed her body: the wound required 20 stitches.


The sixth victim could provide detectives with little new information about the man, except that she thought he had a beard. Women in Cambridge lived in fear. For the police it was an immensely difficult task trying to catch the rapist while protecting the rest of the female community from him. During term-time thousands of young women lived in 10,000 lodgings spread across a honeycomb of 700 or more streets. Most of them lived alone, in bedsits or halls of residence.


Police from all over the country were drafted in to hunt down the attacker. At night more than 100 plainclothes police officers were out on the streets looking for anything suspicious. Detectives thought they were hunting an experienced criminal, maybe a skilled burglar who had turned to rape.


Cambridge CID eliminated a long list of local burglars from their hunt. From swabs of semen taken from the victims, forensic scientists were able to determine the rapists blood group. (About 75 per cent of the mate population can be identified in this way). They also discovered that he was sterile. Police invited all men around five feet five inches tall to provide a saliva sample so that they could be eliminated from their enquiry. Over a thousand men in Cambridge and Newmarket volunteered, but no match was found.


On 3rd December 1974 detectives had visited 47-year-old Peter Cook, who lived in a caravan with his wife in the village of Hardwick, five miles from Cambridge. Cook had been in trouble with the police many times, and had a number of convictions for theft and burglary. He had spent time in both Dartmoor and Broadmoor, but after getting married in 1968 he appeared to have calmed down.


Cook worked as a delivery driver for a wine and spirits business and was also well known around the boatyards on the River Cam, where he often earned extra money as a handyman. At five feet five inches he was a similar height to the descriptions of the rapist, said that their attacker was a much younger man.


Cook provided convincing alibis for the times of all the attacks and although he had a long criminal career, there was no record of any sex offences. Police did, however, find dozens of hard-core pornographic films and magazines scattered around his home. Cook had refused to provide a saliva sample, claiming it was an infringement of his civil liberties. He told police that he looked nothing like a Photofit picture of the rapist, and to either arrest him or clear off.


The police had insufficient evidence to charge Cook, but after the attacks on 8th and 15th December he was put under permanent surveillance. The attacks stopped. Was Cook their man? For three months all was quiet. But then the Cambridge Rapist returned with a vengeance.


On 13th April 1975 a 23-year-old woman was just going to bed when she heard a key in the lock of her front door. Because of the attacks before Christmas she’d had a safety chain fitted. Luckily the chain held and she managed to force the door shut. But when she tried to switch on the light it didn’t work. The woman was too terrified to call for help and there was no telephone in the house to call the police. She got into bed, trembling. Twenty minutes later a torch beam appeared at her bedroom window. Then it vanished.


Door Broken Down


Suddenly there was an almighty crash as the intruder threw himself at the front door, breaking the safety chain. In the dark the attacker worked swiftly. He tied his victim’s hands behind her back, and pushed her under the bedcovers. After switching on the bedside lamp he removed the covers so that the woman could see trim.


In the eerie half light she saw a man dressed completely in black leather. He wore a terrifying leather mask with a zip at the mouth and two eye holes; from under the mask peeped a straggly beard. The attacker pulled back the zip. “Do you know who I am?” he asked his petrified victim. “I am the Cambridge Rapist.”


The rapist had changed his style. He was bolder and more dangerous. Police feared that he might kill someone. More night patrols were set up in the city, but to no avail.


On 6th May in Pye Terrace, in the north of the city, he struck again - this time in broad daylight. The victim was another student, who had come home in her lunch break. As she jotted down notes in a book, she heard a noise behind her. She turned around and was confronted by a man dressed in black leather. He wore a hideous face mask with the word ‘RAPIST’ painted on the forehead.


The woman struggled as he threatened her with a knife, and he stabbed her in the stomach. He then went through his usual routine. As he forced himself on her, he mentioned her boyfriend’s name and said: “Your boyfriend does this to you, doesn’t he?”


Detectives decided to check the whereabouts of Peter Cook. They found him working at a nearby boatyard, and three colleagues told police that he had been there all day. A month later there was yet another attack. In the early hours of Sunday morning, 8th June, a 28-year-old Canadian student was asleep in her room in the Owlstone Croft Hostel when she was awakened by footsteps in the corridor. She got out of bed and opened the door.


In front of her stood a man in black leathers. She tried to shut the door, but the intruder lashed out at her with a knife. Three hundred yards away on the banks of the River Cam two anglers heard the woman’s screams. They ran towards the hostel and one of them called the police. An urgent radio message was relayed to every undercover unit in the vicinity: “Stop everything that moves.”


Detective Constable Terry Edwards was stationed in nearby Selwyn Road. Suddenly he spotted a bicycle coming down the road. The bike was an ancient ladies’ model with a basket on the front, and even though it was 2.35 in the morning it had no lights. Edwards stepped into the road and shouted “Stop”. The cyclist, a woman with long brown hair, swerved round him and carried on pedalling furiously.


The policeman grabbed at the rider and caught her hair - it came away in his hand. It was a wig. Unbalanced by the detective’s lunge, the cyclist crashed to the ground. With the help of local residents, who had rushed into the streets because of all the noise, the cyclist was overpowered.


The Cambridge Rapist was exposed. Under the woman’s red coat and pleated skirt was Peter Cook. After he was locked in a cell, police examined the carrier bags that had been slung from the bike’s handlebars. Inside they found the black leather ‘RAPIST’ mask, a bottle of ether and a cloth pad, wigs, a torch, a home-made device for fusing lights, a jemmy (small crowbar) and other assorted housebreaking equipment.


Dressed As A Woman


The detectives could now see why Cook had been so difficult to catch. He had obviously travelled to and from the scene of his crimes dressed as a woman. When he was close to his target he would change into his black leather rapist outfit. In a city where bikes outnumbered cars by three to one, the best way to travel around unnoticed was on a bike. Police realised that Cook had probably pedalled past them after several of his attacks and had been dismissed as a female cyclist.


But what about the attack in May when police were told Cook was at the boatyard all day? He had obviously slipped away in his lunch break and was back before any one noticed that he was missing. He had also used another clever trick. False hair had been glued inside his mask to give his victims the impression that he had shoulder-length hair and a beard. Cook was in fact clean-shaven, with a neatly trimmed crew-cut hairstyle.

Cambridge Rapist Peter Cook Trial

Peter Cook"s trial was in Norwich Crown Court on 3rd October 1975. He was charged with seven rapes and two woundings. And committing acts of gross indecency. He pleaded guilty to all charges and was jailed for life. The judge, Justice Melford Stevenson, told him: “In your case I am recommending that life in prison means exactly that.”

Peter Cook Died In Prison

Peter Cook died in prison of natural causes. At the age of 75.


We found an edittorial with the headline of
Cambridge Rapist Strikes Again Police believe a woman attacked in the early hours of Sunday morning was the sixth victim of a serial rapist operating in Cambridge.


Cambridge rapist strikes again. Police believe a woman attacked in the early hours of Sunday morning was the sixth victim of a serial rapist operating in Cambridge. The man wearing black leather trousers and jacket and a leather hood with eye-slits forced his way into the 22-year-old woman's bed-sit in the city.


She awoke to find him holding a knife to her throat. He then raped her and left her naked, bound and gagged. She managed to raise the alarm four hours later.


As in previous attacks, the man spent several minutes talking to his victim, asking if she was willing to have sex and describing what he was going to do. The attack was the first after a lull of four months.


Police blame the same man for five other attacks in Cambridge since October last year.


But Another woman fought him off after he attempted to force his way into her flat. Most of the rapist's victims have been students at the university. 'Local man'


But The woman he attacked today is one of the first to have got a good look at him. He has generally managed to keep his face hidden but some victims said they believed he was wearing a wig and a false beard.


But One woman who did see him told police he was in his mid-twenties and about 5 ft 4 in (1.63 metres) tall.


Detective Superintendent Bernard Hotson, who is leading 60 officers hunting for the rapist, said he is convinced they are dealing with a local man.


"We are certain that someone in the city knows of this man's different disguises and his peculiar moods in the early hours of the morning. And he urged anyone who suspected they knew the rapist to turn him in. His sadistic tendencies must have shown themselves before he started raping innocent girls," Mr Hotson said. "