Horse rapist - owner lived in fear of intruder

Horse owner Maggie Hunt lived in fear of visiting her beloved horses after perverted Derek Woods began carrying out sex attacks on her much-loved elderly mare, Amber. Woods was caught after police set up covert cameras to catch him carrying out the sick acts.

Horse rapist Derek Woods stole Maggie Hunt’s daily pleasure of caring for her animals when he started having sex with her elderly mare, Amber.

The horse owner, from Topsham, was forced to wear a personal attack alarm every time she visited her remote stables, near Pitt Lane, Clyst St George, and lived in fear of what - or who - she would find in her chestnut mare’s stable.

A lack of lighting at the premises meant Maggie often tended her horses in failing light – particularly through the winter months.

Her nightmare began on December 18, 2009, when, in the dark, she noticed buckets left for the horse had been moved around.

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On this day Maggie suspicions were roused further when she found a man asleep in Amber’s stable.

When she challenged him, and asked him to leave, she realised he was drunk.

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Detective Constable Darren Campbell, from Exmouth CID, said some ten months later Maggie would provide ‘compelling evidence’ correctly pick out the same man – Derek Woods - at an identity parade after he was caught on CCTV assaulting the helpless animal.

DC Campbell said: “She noticed that water containers and food bins had been moved from outside to inside so she decided to examine her horse.”

When the owner noticed the mare had been injured and was having problems urinating, she called the police.

Over the next few months buckets were again moved from where Maggie had left them the night before.

In a bid to catch the culprit in action and determine exactly what was being inflicted on Maggie’s much-loved 28-year-old mare, the horse owner and police employed various tactics to catch him in the act.

But many early attempts, including installing security lights and an alarm system, failed to stop Woods returning to abuse the horse.

Further attempts to protect the horse were thwarted when dummy CCTV cameras and alarms were moved.

DC Campbell said a lack of power at the premises proved challenging for the police when setting up covert cameras to catch Woods in action.

He said: “Maggie was very upset about what was happening. She knew someone was still going there. She was worried because she was always going there in the dark.

“She was worried for her own safety as much as the horses. She used to go and make as much noise as she could to try and scare whoever was there, away.

“This incident caused her real worry and stress. She said it had been a horrible time. She had to change her routine and carry a personal attack alarm and she felt really uneasy and worried, going to the stables.”

Woods’ depraved acts of animal cruelty came to an end after Detective Sergeant Zoe Nowell enlisted the help of Devon and Cornwall police’s technical surveillance unit.

Keen to protect police covert tactics, DC Campbell said he was unable to reveal the full extent of the team’s covert work to catch Woods.

He said hidden cameras set up in July 2010 had alerted police Woods’ return to the stable – allowing officers to catch him in action on August 9 2010 and make an arrest.

When the police arrived they found a still-hot Chinese meal on the ground outside the stable, alerting officers their man was still inside.

DC Campbell said: “The technical surveillance unit use covert tactics is usually used in drug trafficking, terrorism and very, very serious crimes.

“I have only seen them twice in the ten years I have been working so that shows how often we use them at this level.

“We had to test the equipment and there was a lot of trial and error. We had to make sure there was enough light in the stable to allow a camera to operate properly and record images needed to score a conviction.

“This was the most unusual investigation I have ever conducted.”

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