News article

Serial sex attacker caught by DNA

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Phillip Blackwell has been jailed for life

DNA taken by Cornish police revealed the dark past of a serial sexual predator who has been jailed for life for attacks on women over three decades.

Former X-Factor contestant Phillip Blackwell, 56, previously of Western Road, Launceston, appeared before Warwick Crown Court for sentence yesterday [27 July] after previously admitting 31 sexual offences against nine women in Cornwall, Warwickshire and Birmingham.

Blackwell, who infamously appeared on The X-Factor in 2008 with his rendition of Spandau Ballet’s Gold, was jailed for life to serve a minimum of nine years before being considered for parole. He will also have to sign the Sex Offenders Register for life. 

His dark history of offending since the 1990s came to light after his DNA was taken during a sexual offences investigation in Cornwall.

A woman came forward with allegations, including rape, against Blackwell. He was arrested at his home in Launceston by Devon and Cornwall Police in August 2019 and his DNA taken.

When entered into the UK National DNA Database his profile was found to be a match for a string of stranger rapes against five women in Nuneaton and Birmingham between 1997 and 1998.

In each case, the young women were walking alone in the early hours of the morning when they were attacked from behind before being raped or subjected to other sexual offences.

Back then Warwickshire Police launched Operation Fairway, working in collaboration with West Midlands Police and the National Crime Agency, to lead one of the biggest investigations ever carried out by the Warwickshire force.

Despite the size of the investigation and DNA samples being taken from thousands of men in the area, Blackwell, who lived in Birmingham at the time, did not come to light as a suspect. In 2003, Blackwell moved to Cornwall where he continued to offend.

Appearing at Warwick Crown Court in February Blackwell pleaded guilty to committing sexual offences against the five women, four of which occurred in Birmingham over 1997 and 1998 and one in Nuneaton in May 1998.

He admitted four counts of rape, one count of attempted rape, five counts of indecent assault and one count of false imprisonment.

Following his plea at court, Warwickshire Police took the lead on the Cornwall investigation and identified sexual offences against four females.

Blackwell had raped three women and secretly filmed them asleep as he sexually assaulted them. He also took covert footage of a teenage girl leaving a bathroom while undressed or partially dressed.

He appeared via video link at court again in May where he pleaded guilty to a further 20 sexual offences in Cornwall. This included nine counts of rape, four counts of sexual assault, two counts of assault by penetration and three counts of voyeurism. These offences were committed against three women between 2005 and 2019.

He also pleaded guilty to one count of taking indecent photographs of a child and a count of voyeurism in relation to the same child. 

In sentencing Judge Peter Cooke at Warwick Crown Court said it has been conclusively demonstrated Blackwell remained an ongoing danger to women and that there were good grounds for believing he would remain a serious danger to the public way into the future.

“Murderers aside, I can think of no more dangerous a person than I have crossed paths with in my 35 years of criminal law,” he told Blackwell.

Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Inspector Glenn Willcocks, from the Sexual Offences and Domestic Abuse Investigation Team in Cornwall, welcomed the sentence and said: “The DNA hit from his arrest in Cornwall began the chain of events which led to the capture of this dangerous and prolific sexual offender. This case clearly demonstrates how critical DNA profiling is to modern day policing.

“It is remarkable that Blackwell thought nothing of brazenly appearing on national television and potentially being identified by his victims. It shows the level of confidence he had in thinking he would never be caught. However his past has well and truly found him now.

“Some of his victims have lived with these devastating crimes for more than 20 years and we are delighted that he has finally been brought to justice. I would pay tribute to the incredible bravery of the victims who had to revisit the horrendous crimes they were subjected to many years ago.”

One of his victims in Cornwall said the harm Blackwell had caused “could never be undone”, adding: “This case has been incredibly distressing. These crimes have not only affected the survivors of his crimes, but our families and friends. I would like to thank Warwickshire Police for their diligent work and the support they have shown us.”

Another Cornwall victim said:“I feel shocked by everything that has happened. I am now simply existing rather than actually living. I am too distraught by what he has done. I believe he knew what he was doing was wrong and he took great pleasure in getting away with it. He is a very devious and dangerous man. I fear that he cannot be rehabilitated and will always be a threat to women and girls.”

Assistant Chief Constable Debbie Tedds from Warwickshire Police said: “This is about Blackwell’s victims. Nothing can ever take away the pain they have suffered but I hope they can take some comfort from seeing him behind bars.

“They have shown great bravery throughout; their collective courage has ensured a very dangerous man is going to prison.

“As a detective constable working on the case for Warwickshire Police in the 1990s I saw first-hand the terror Blackwell caused in the community. We were telling women not to go out alone; something you never want to have to do as a police officer.

“Despite not being solved at the time, the offences in the Nuneaton and Birmingham were regularly reviewed for new evidence.

“It was clear that Blackwell was very careful in his offending and this may have led him to believe he had got away with it. However, the bravery of one his victims in Cornwall in reporting her ordeal at his hands and the wonders of DNA technology have ensured Blackwell’s past has caught up with him.

“The scale of his offending was astonishing; he is a very dangerous man and prison is undoubtedly the best place for him.

“I hope the outcome gives everyone the confidence that we will work tirelessly to bring sex offenders to justice no matter how long ago the offences occurred.”

If you have been a victim of a sexual offence, no matter when it occurred, support is available. For more information go to



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