Woman gang raped in Plymouth in 1978 wants attackers to face justice

Jane was 17 when a number of “drunk and brutal” men forced themselves on her at a hotel in Plymouth.

Police, who said the attack had a significant impact on Jane’s life, have launched an appeal to find two men they think could help identify her rapists.

Jane urged those men to come forward and “do the right thing”.

Devon and Cornwall Police have released e-fit images of two men, whom Jane, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, believed were friends with her rapists but did not rape her.

An efit composite
The police have launched an appeal to find the men who they think could identify the rapists

In a direct plea to those men, she said: “I hope they recognise that they really do need to come forward.

“I felt at the time that they certainly didn’t want what happened to me to have happened to me and I feel that they could right that wrong by coming forward and telling the police who the people were that they were with on that day and therefore who the men were that raped me.

“I am saying to them, 40 years ago your team-mates and your friends raped me, allegiances change over those years and therefore it would be the right thing to do to come forward now.

“You may have had daughters, you may have granddaughters, you know what happened to me and you know that you hold the key to identifying those people who raped me.”

‘Could not breathe’

Jane said she was a “normal” teenager when she went out with a school friend one Saturday in late January or early February in 1978.

They went to what was then called Safari Club, but has since been known as the Notte Inn, where Jane met a man, who was part of a larger group.

He asked her to go to his hotel room and Jane agreed, waiting while he spoke to a friend in the group before going with him to the now closed Strathmore Hotel on Elliot Street.

She said they had consensual sex and he began telling her about his life. She claimed he was a maths teacher and part of a touring south Wales rugby team.

Jane joked that at 17 she could be his pupil and recalled being surprised he did not find this funny. Then there was a knock at the door and the teacher got up to answer it.

Strathmore Hotel
Jane was raped by a number of rugby players in what was then the Strathmore Hotel in Plymouth

“Some men tried to force their way into the room,” she said, adding the teacher tried to stop them but left after being overpowered by a number of men who entered the room.

Jane said the men were wearing only towels and lined up along a wall “as if on a rugby pitch”. Terrified, she tried to reach for the hotel phone but was pinned down by three of the men.

“They were very strong and heavy and I could not breathe,” she said.

“I gave in entirely to them. I knew that I needed to be compliant because they had already demonstrated to me that any attempt to resist was futile.

“They were drunk and brutal. I was raped in turn by about six or seven of the men while the other men cheered and encouraged them on.”

Jane outside Strathmore Hotel
Jane has urged the two men in the e-fit images, who did not rape her, to come forward

Jane said the men, whom she describes as being white, clean shaven and in their early 20s, “eventually” left the bedroom and she left the hotel, meeting her friend who she had last seen in the pub on her way out.

“They saw me as a thing,” she said of her rapists.

“They felt entitled to take that and that is what I would like to address; the imbalance of a 17-year-old eight stone girl facing rugby players.”

A map of Plymouth
Jane went with a school friend to the Safari Club one Saturday in 1978

Jane said the teacher and his friend – who had been in the room while she was raped but did not take part – then reappeared and took her and her friend to the Duke of Cornwall Hotel for a meal.

It is these two men, neither of whom raped Jane, who are the men depicted in the e-fit images.

Jane first reported her ordeal to Devon and Cornwall Police in 1993 but that did not result in any suspects being found.

In 2014 she reported her rapes again and a new investigation was launched.

Det Supt Jo Hall said the two men were “key to identifying the individuals who carried out this horrendous attack as it is clear that the group of men are known to each other”.

Police said they were interested in speaking to all sports teams not just rugby players because the men may have lied about what they were doing in Plymouth.

She said: “We must remember that these images are based on the men in 1978, over 40 years ago, so they would have changed considerably in that time and are likely to be in their 60s now.”

Det Supt Hall is appealing for anyone who knew the men to come forward and would also like to speak to anyone who was working or staying at the hotel at the time of the offences.

“These offences have had a significant impact upon the life of this woman and they remain with her to this day,” she added.

“Although this happened over 40 years ago, there is every likelihood that allegiances have changed in that time and now is the time to do the right thing.”

A brochure from the time of the rapes (1970s)
Police said the attack at Strathmore Hotel had had a significant impact on Jane’s life

Jane said she feared her rapists may have attacked other women, which was one of the reasons she felt compelled to tell her story.

“I am pretty sure that I am not alone. At the heart of this is a 17-year-old girl that was raped in 1978 and the rapists are still out there and I want to find them and I would like to ask the general public to help me find them.”

Anyone with information can contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously.

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