Killer on day release cleared of rape

RICHARD BALLS A convicted killer from Norfolk who took part in one of Britain's most sadistic and violent prison sieges was last night cleared of assaulting a girl in Suffolk while on day-release from prison.

RICHARD BALLS

A convicted killer from Norfolk who took part in one of Britain's most sadistic and violent prison sieges was last night cleared of assaulting a girl in Suffolk while on day-release from prison.

David Lant, 62, formerly known as David Cheeseman, and another man nick-named 'Hannibal' after the character in the film Silence of the Lambs subjected a fellow patient at Broadmoor Hospital to nine hours of torture before they finally garrotted him during the notorious incident in 1977.

Yesterday, a jury of eight women and four men at Ipswich Crown Court who were aware of his murder conviction acquitted Lant of one charge of rape and five of sexual assault on a 16-year-old girl. The attack was alleged to have taken place at the caravan he owned with his French wife in Thurston, near Bury St Edmunds, in October 2004.

Lant was serving a life sentence at Hollesley Bay open prison near Woodbridge, Suffolk, when he was accused of carrying out the alleged five-hour sex attack. He was allowed out on licence as part of a pre-release scheme and returned to the jail each night after working at the Salvation Army hostel in Ipswich.

After the 'not guilty' verdicts were read in court, Lant breathed a sigh of relief and said to the jury: "Thank you very much."

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Outside court, the girl's grandmother said: "She is flabbergasted".

The girl, now 18, who cannot be named, told the court via a video link that she had agreed to meet Lant in October 2004 because he said he wanted to give her £50 that he owed her boyfriend.

After meeting him at a petrol station, she said Lant had persuaded her to go with him to his wife's caravan near Bury St Edmunds because, he said, he wanted to check the electricity was turned off.

The teenager alleged that Lant offered her £200 to have sex with him. When she refused, she claimed that he picked up a carving knife and threw it across the caravan.

"I screamed at the knife. He was threatening me and I was crying and he touched me without my consent," she told the court.

Charles Myatt, prosecuting, told the court that Lant later drove the girl to Hollesley Common, near his prison, where further sexual assaults took place in the back of his car.

The court heard he eventually dropped the girl off in Ipswich, more than five hours after her ordeal began.

Lant told the jury the girl had agreed to take part in sexual activity. He said a medical condition meant he was unable to get an erection, but said he had got pleasure from kissing and caressing the girl.

The girl denied that she agreed to have sex with Lant for money.

It was in 1977 at Broadmoor Hospital in Berkshire, that Lant and another inmate, Bob Mawdsley, subjected David Francis to escalating levels of violence for nine hours until he was garrotted. Both were sentenced to life in prison.

Helpless staff had to listen to the victim's screams after the pair barricaded themselves in a hospital room and carried out the murder as revenge for a homosexual attack on one of their friends. Francis was partly skinned.

Mawdsley, who has been nicknamed Hannibal after the character from Silence of the Lambs, was sent to an area of Wakefield jail known as The Cage, with part of the front of his cell made of unbreakable plastic so he could be observed for 24 hours a day.

He earned his nickname after killing two other inmates at the prison and allegedly eating some of the brain of one victim.