Detectives believe a fugitive being hunted for the abduction and “horrific” rapes of three women is being hidden by a friend or family member.
Joseph McCann, 34, is believed to have snatched two women aged in their 20s off the streets in north London last Thursday, April 25, in separate incidents.
He is also suspected of abducting a 21-year-old woman at knifepoint in Watford in the early hours of April 21 and raping her.
Speaking to reporters outside New Scotland Yard on Thursday, Detective Chief Inspector Katherine Goodwin said the women are believed to have been attacked at random.
“I can only imagine the horrific impact that this would have had on the victims,” she said.
“There is nothing to suggest that any of the victims were targeted. They were all selected randomly from the streets and he had abducted them in an incredibly violent manner.”
She said there is no evidence to suggest McCann has left the country and she believes he is being hidden by someone he knows.
“My current belief is that he may be being hidden by a friend, family member, someone who possibly isn’t aware of the full nature of his crimes and what he has done,” said Ms Goodwin.
“Whatever your reason, if you are loyal to him or fearful of him, please call us, or share any information 100% anonymously via Crimestoppers.
“McCann is wanted in connection with violent, sexually motivated offences and it is vital that he be apprehended.
The Ministry of Justice has launched an urgent review after it emerged McCann may have been wrongly released from prison in February.
He was freed automatically half-way through a three-year sentence for burglary and theft but should have gone before a parole board, it is understood.
McCann is believed to have been subject to a life-long licence after he was released from prison in February 2017 having served 10 years of an indeterminate sentence for public protection (IPP) for an aggravated burglary.
Scotland Yard has offered a reward of up to £20,000 for information leading to his arrest and prosecution.
He is described as being muscular, about 5ft 10in, and he has a “distinctive” tattoo of the name “bobbie” on his stomach.
He is said to have blue eyes, a bald head or shaved blond hair with a light-coloured beard, and a “slight” Irish accent.
Officers said he has recently gone by the name of Joel and has links to Watford, north-west London, Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, and Ipswich in Suffolk, as well as historic family links to Manchester.
The women abducted in London were raped after being snatched by a man in a silver or grey Ford S-Max people carrier with false registration plates.
The first woman was abducted at about 12.30am on Thursday from a street in Chingford, before the second was seized around 12 hours later at 12.15pm from a street in Edgware.
One of the women may have been pregnant, The Times reported.
The women managed to escape in Osborne Road, Watford, at about 2.30pm.
The incident has been officially linked to another attack earlier in the week which is being investigated by Hertfordshire Police.
That force said a woman was approached at around 3.30am on April 21 in Hagden Lane, Watford, driven around for six hours in a blue Ford Mondeo with false registration plates and then raped.
The incident was reported to police the following day.
On Tuesday this week, a 63-year-old woman from Aylesbury was arrested on suspicion of intimidation of witnesses in connection with the attack and released on bail. A 33-year-old man arrested on Sunday on suspicion of conspiracy to rape has been released under investigation.