THE detective who led the investigation into the 1989 ‘silent rape’ says some police officers at the time may not have believed the victim.

Leslie Marshall was today jailed at Preston Crown Court for six-and-a-half years for the rape in Briercliffe, Burnley.

Detective Constable Lisa Baxter, of Lancashire Constabulary’s cold case investigation unit, said her team had to build the case back up from scratch after original files were destroyed.

She said: “A lot of the case files had been destroyed. There had obviously been a decision at some point, not knowing what the developments were going to be, and the advances in DNA.

“Police officers back in the day obviously thought ‘well, this won’t get detected’ and a decision was made to destroy files for whatever reason. That doesn’t happen now.

“For the victim, it’s nothing to do with the sentence, it’s more justification that she was believed because quite clearly there were doubters out there who didn’t believe her.

"It has affected her life quite clearly.

“There were doubters within the police as well, unfortunately, back in the day.

"It is a different police culture now than it was back then.

“I’m not saying everybody didn’t believe her because the focus of the investigation wouldn’t have continued, but yes there were certain police officers involved in the investigation that didn’t believe her - at the time.

“I wasn’t in the police service back then, but I am aware that the way police officers dealt with rape investigations was different then to what it is now.

“That’s not to say she wasn’t not completely believed.

"The senior investigating officer was fully committed to trying to identify who these offenders were and it is unfortunate he didn’t manage to do that.”

Marshall, who was a driver, was arrested for fiddling his tachograph and when his DNA was put on the national database it matched.

DC Baxter said the case would ‘never have been solved’ without the much-debated DNA database.

She said: “I’m very pleased, more pleased for the victim in this because that’s what it all revolves around.

"The fact that somebody has now been convicted and sentenced in relation to her attack brings a lot of justification and satisfaction.

“It’s very rewarding but we are very mindful all the time that we have a real victim out there and what their thoughts and opinions are on how the case progresses is at the forefront of what we do.

“How best to approach that victim is looked into very carefully because you just don’t know how that person is going to react and who else in their immediate family actually knows now what happened to them all those years ago.

“You can’t predict how someone is going to react to the news that after 20-plus years we’re coming back to tell you we may have an offender for what happened to you.

“It is difficult now for someone to have to go through the court process, but to have lived with it for 20 plus years and then be facing the prospect of having to go to court, it takes a very strong person to want to do that.

“You can only begin to imagine what it must have been like for her.

“She really didn’t know if she was going to come out of this ordeal alive.

"Thankfully she did but then that brings with it another ordeal of having to go through it all.

“Left in the middle of nowhere, freezing cold, having suffered at the hands of these men.

“Knowing that he had done it all those years ago, I’d like to think he was probably just waiting for that knock on the door knowing this was going to happen.”

Marshall answered no comment to all the questions during his police interviews and never told police who his accomplice was or his motive.