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Victim of cold case serial rapist sentenced to jail speaks of her relief that her attacker was caught -

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TONY JONES, PRESENTER: Before we go, a story which may make you feel there is some justice in the world. A serial rapist who kidnapped and sexually assaulted five children across Sydney more than 20 years ago has finally been locked away. Richard John Crowe eluded police for 25 years before cold-case investigators finally made the breakthrough. Today, he was sentenced to 12 years' jail. Reporter Lorna Knowles spoke to one of the victims.

LORNA KNOWLES, REPORTER: It's a face Rebecca Nimmo will never forget. She was 17 years old when she was attacked by this man, Richard John Crowe.

REBECCA NIMMO: This person approached me from behind and put his hand over my mouth and said, "I've got a knife." And he dragged me into the bushes.

LORNA KNOWLES: Crowe raped Rebecca Nimmo, telling her, "Scream and I'll kill you."

What was going through your mind at the time?

REBECCA NIMMO: All I could think about were things on the news that I hear of other people that have been raped or, you know, gang raped or - but all I was doing was going, "Just let me go. I don't care what you do to me, just let me go." After he done what he did, he said, "You can go," but I couldn't move. I froze 'cause I was scared he was gonna chase me again, you know? So I actually just froze in the bushes and I just waited for him to leave the scene.

LORNA KNOWLES: It was one of five similar attacks on young girls across Sydney between 1989 and 1991. The other girls, aged between nine and 12, were abducted from streets in the Bankstown area.

LINDA HOWLETT, CHIEF INVESTIGATOR: He took them to an isolated area. One was a house, one was a drain pipe area and basically kidnapped these children and sexually assaulted them. It was very, very vicious.

LORNA KNOWLES: The cases were thoroughly investigated, but due to forensic limitations at the time, no-one was ever charged.

But in 2011, this team of New South Wales detectives reopened the case. They identified the same DNA at all five crime scenes, but still didn't know who the offender was.

LINDA HOWLETT: So it basically got down to the stage of doing cold-case slogging. Excellent investigations by the investigators. They went back to the basics. They attended the crime scenes, had a look at those. They looked at old charge - offender photos, checked with Corrections, looked at all the modus operandis, not only in New South Wales, but other states as well.

LORNA KNOWLES: Detective Superintendent Linda Howlett is the head of the New South Wales Police Sex Crimes Squad and led the cold case investigation.

LINDA HOWLETT: It really was hard work. It took them a couple of years. At one stage they had a list of 13,000 persons to look at. And they managed to break it down to about 116 persons. And as a result of that, we identified the offender.

LORNA KNOWLES: The five crime scenes were linked using a DNA back capture program, but Crowe was ultimately caught thanks to old-fashioned detective work.

REBECCA NIMMO: Man, I fell over. Like, I was in shock. I just went, "How does this happen? It's like a needle in a haystack. Are you sure you got the right person?"

LORNA KNOWLES: Today, Crowe was sentenced to 12 years' jail on multiple counts of kidnap and sexual assault. Police say the outcome demonstrates they'll never give up on a case, no matter how long ago the offences happened.

REBECCA NIMMO: I had tears of joy that you're going away. Ha! Justice has got you.

LORNA KNOWLES: Rebecca Nimmo is relieved that she'll no longer be looking over her shoulder for Richard Crowe.

REBECCA NIMMO: It's given me, um, a sense of stability again. It's made me feel like I'm a person again.

LORNA KNOWLES: She decided to go public to offer this advice to other sexual assault victims.

REBECCA NIMMO: Never give up. And just - it's not your fault. And don't ever blame yourself because it's out of your control.

LORNA KNOWLES: 45-year-old Crowe will be eligible for parole in 2022.