Rapist Leon Love from Darlington described as "dangerous and devious".

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

A MAN branded "an arrogant sexual predator" is behind bars today for twice attacking women as they slept - as the question was posed: "How many more?"

It is feared that Leon Love - found guilty of rape and sexual assault charges after a two-week trial - may have left a trail of other victims.

Love, from Darlington, wept as he was jailed for nine years, and was told by a judge at Teesside Crown Court: "You're a selfish man with no morals."

Detectives hope the convictions and sentence will encourage other women who may have stayed silent about their ordeals to come forward and report them.

A source told The Northern Echo: "We now have three women who have made independent claims against this man, so there could well be others out there."

Love, 26, broke down in tears when the jury returned its guilty verdicts, while his victims, who were in court to see justice, sobbed with relief.

Last night, detectives who investigated the 2009 and 2011 offences - as well as a 2008 rape he was cleared of - described him as "a dangerous and devious man".

Just months before the 2009 attack, he was acquitted of raping another young woman in almost identical circumstances - but failed to learn his lesson.

Each time, the court heard, he climbed into bed alongside his sleeping victim, who woke to find him either touching them or having sex with them.

Prosecutor Richard Bennett said Love preyed on the vulnerable women after they got drunk or took cocaine he supplied at house parties in Darlington.

Judge Howard Crowson said: "This was not the work of the moment. This is a man who knew what he was about. He waited for the moment to take advantage.

"Nine months after your acquittal, having learned no lesson whatsoever from that trial, you went to a party as a trusted friend. Nothing could be further from the truth.

"There may be no previous convictions but the pattern demonstrates a man who is simply selfish and predatory, interested only in your own sexual desires.

"You will be registered as a sex offender for the rest of your life. The harm that you have caused to those young women will also last a lifetime."

The victims told how they have needed counselling to get over the trauma, have lost their confidence and are now afraid to be out alone at night.

Dave Ripley, of Darlington CID, praised the bravery of the women, thanked other witnesses for helping with the case, and hailed the work of Mr Bennett and the CPS.

The Detective Constable said: "Love is a calculating and deviant sexual predator - deviant in attacking his victims when they are at their most vulnerable.

"He has caused three young women to come to court in the last two weeks and relive their horrific experiences. It goes without saying they have been so brave.

"We hope this encourages any other victims to come forward. We know from experience that girls often won't, but there is support and justice."

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