Man hunted after three women raped may have been wrongly freed from prison
An urgent review has been launched over fears a suspected rapist being hunted by police may have been wrongly released from prison.
Joseph McCann, 34, is wanted over the abduction of two women aged in their 20s who were separately snatched off the streets in north London last Thursday.
He is also suspected of snatching a 21-year-old woman at knifepoint in Watford in the early hours of April 21 and raping her, Hertfordshire Police said.
It is understood he was released on life-long licence from prison in February 2017 after serving 10 years of a now-scrapped indeterminate sentence for an aggravated burglary.
He was jailed again the same year for theft and burglary but is believed to have been mistakenly released automatically half-way through his three-year sentence.
It should have been up to the parole board to decide whether he was released or stayed behind bars because he was still subject to licence.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We have commissioned an urgent review into what happened in this case.”
Scotland Yard has offered a reward of up to £20,000 for information leading to his arrest and prosecution.
Police have warned McCann is “extremely dangerous”, known to use false names and may be using a disguise.
He is described as being muscular, about 5ft 10in, and having a “distinctive” tattoo of the name “bobbie” on his stomach.
He is said to have blue eyes, a bald head or shaved blond hair with a light-coloured beard, and a “slight” Irish accent.
Officers said he had recently gone by the name of Joel and has links to Watford, north-west London, Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, and Ipswich in Suffolk.
The women abducted in London were raped after being snatched by a man in a silver or grey Ford S-Max people carrier with false registration plates.
The first woman was abducted at about 12.30am on Thursday from a street in Chingford, before the second was seized around 12 hours later at 12.15pm from a street in Edgware.
One of the women may have been pregnant, The Times reported.
They were driven to a hotel where the man attempted to book a room at around 1pm. They left when this was unavailable.
But the women managed to escape in Osborne Road, Watford, at about 2.30pm.
They were both “traumatised” by the ordeal and have been receiving support from specialist officers, police said.
The incident is being linked to another attack earlier in the week which is being investigated by Hertfordshire Police.
The force said a woman was approached at around 3.30am on April 21 in Hagden Lane, Watford, driven around for six hours in a blue Ford Mondeo and then raped.
The incident was reported to police the following day.
Hertfordshire Police named McCann on its Facebook page on Thursday as being wanted on recall to prison without mentioning the rape.
A force spokesman said: “He was named as wanted on recall to prison on our Facebook page on Thursday April 25. This is a complex inquiry and we were actively pursuing numerous, significant lines of inquiry throughout the week in order to trace and arrest the suspect.
“It is normally only when we have exhausted those inquiries do we put out a wanted appeal. We are continuing in our efforts to trace him and we are working closely with the Metropolitan Police Service.”
On Tuesday, a 63-year-old woman from Aylesbury was arrested on suspicion of intimidation of witnesses in connection with the attack and released on bail.
A 33-year-old man arrested on Sunday on suspicion of conspiracy to rape has been released under investigation.