Not to be confused with the infamous Los Angeles serial killer Richard Ramirez (who was known by the same moniker), John Mcshane’s book Night Stalker details the hunt for hunt for one of Britain’s most prolific sex attackers, “Minstead Man”, or “The Night Stalker”. In a period spanning 17 years, Minstead Man, in the course of being an extremely active burglar, also raped, molested and indecently assaulted a large number of elderly women, and on two occasions men, over a reign of terror that spanned 17 years. The police hunt for the offender to put an end to his terrifying crime spree came to be the largest and longest running hunt for a serial rapist ever undertaken by the Metropolitan Police, and was codenamed “Operation Minstead”. It was 2009 before a suspect was arrested and charged, and eventually Delroy Grant, a 52 year old father of 8, was found guilty in a court of law and sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum term of 27 years set.
Because it was such a long running case, I was familiar with it and kept up an interest over the years that the Minstead Rapist was active. It was appealed widely in the national press and on television over the years, and I think the sensationalism of the press helped fuel an interest. Gerontophilia is an extremely undocumented and very taboo paraphilia, and conjures up such images of disgust and horror that a morbid fascination is easy in this case. Isn’t the interest in and fascination gleaned from reading about the facts of cases and pondering just what makes people commit the worst kinds of crimes known to humankind why any reader of true crime does so? Personally, it certainly is with myself, so when I found a book about Delroy Grant available, I was eager and interested to read it.
As with any of my previous reviews, I try to be unbiased, fair and constructively critical in a book review. I find it easier to review using the simplistic system of positives with the book, and then negatives with the book. It is 289 pages in length and has been written by respected journalist John Mcshane, Associate Editor of the Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror.
Positively, the book is well written and describes in attentive detail several of the assaults and rapes committed by Grant. It gives due respect to the victims, it does not reprint in too graphic detail the assaults but gives enough colour and paints enough of a picture so that the reader can visualise and attempt to empathise with the scene and the fear that each victim must have faced. It covers the hunt for, the eventual arrest of Delroy Grant, and then moves on to his trial. Large parts of the transcript of Grant’s trial are featured throughout this section, which will be of interest to the reader. (Verbatim script is always something that appeals to me).
What I found much more negative was the fact that the book tends to be very repetitive. It does a good job of explaining some of Grant’s offences, but considering it was first published in 2011 (some 2 years after Grant had been convicted and imprisoned), it does not echo a substantial period of research in the writing. There are just 7 scant pages dedicated to Grant’s childhood, upbringing, family history and early adulthood. As I have said in countless reviews, I applaud detail and research, and the areas in which this book has that in abundance can be gleaned from any press reports about the case. The descriptions of the offences are fine, but any psychological profile of the offender is sketched over in favour of long winded writing about the trial.And throughout the section detailing the trial, large parts of the descriptions of the offences from the start of the book are repeated here. Although this may appeal to some readers of true crime, personally I would have preferred a lot more of the book covering Grant’s early life and other crimes, in an attempt to identify a possible trigger that created the Gerontophile in him. I would also rather have read a detailed account of both the geographical and psychological profiles of the Minstead Rapist, and although of course reading about any defence against such clear cut evidence professing Grant’s guilt would be fascinating, I felt that too much was devoted to the trial. It could have easily been halved and still left the reader as much in the know. Also especially disappointing was the lack of accompanying photographs concerning the case – it just seems lazy and to have been omitted in favour of getting the book out by a deadline in my opinion. A manhunt, the biggest of its kind, brings with it lots of images, photofits, public appeals, crime scene photographs etc – all of which would have been fascinating to see.
Overall, Night Stalker is a book I can recommend a true crime reader to read, but I feel they will agree with my sentiment that it will never become a classic. This is a shame, it seems that a unique and prime opportunity to research and document one of the most unique and prolific criminals in British criminal history has been squandered here. For those interested, the psychological profiling of the Minstead Rapist is much better covered in the book accompanying the Channel 4 TV Series “The Real Cracker”.
The True Crime Enthusiast