‘Bondi beast’ breakthrough: Police link suspect to 31 unsolved sexual assaults

Police believe they have identified a serial rapist known as the “Bondi Beast” after renewed investigations linked a man to dozens of historic attacks committed in Sydney’s east.

Advances in DNA technology led Sex Crimes Squad detectives to suspect Keith Simms, 66, preyed on women over the course of 16 years, and was behind 31 unsolved incidents.

Mr. Simms, however, will never be charged as he died earlier this year.

NSW Police formed Strike Force Doreen in 2005 to investigate five sexual assaults in the city’s eastern suburbs in 2000.

It was later expanded to probe 31 attempted or actual assaults after referrals from the Cold Case Justice Review Project.

Investigators linked 12 offenses through DNA and another 19 by modus operandi.

The first assault happened in Clovelly in 1985 and the last took place at Waverley cemetery in 2001.

The attacks occurred across suburbs including Bondi, Bronte, Randwick, Pagewood, Coogee and Centennial Park.

In 2016, then-Acting Detective Superintendent Mick Haddow told the media a global manhunt had been launched to find the culprit.

“Some of these matters involved breaking into people’s homes, but the majority were committed in public areas, blitz-style attacks,” he said.

Drawing of a man with a dark complexion, dark hair, brown eyes and a broad nose
An artist’s impression of a description of the man given in 1994.(Supplied: NSW Police)

The unknown assailant targeted women aged 14 to 55, either by abducting women who were out jogging or breaking into their homes at night.

Police said the earliest incident Mr. Simms was linked to via DNA evidence was on September 29, 1987, when a 23-year-old woman was raped in her Randwick unit.

She woke up to a man armed with a knife who put his hand over her mouth and sexually assaulted her.

The last was in a cemetery in October 2000, where a 17-year-old girl was grabbed from behind and sexually assaulted while she was walking home.

Those incidents linked by method began with the assault of a 38-year-old woman who was running at Thompson’s Bay in March 1985 and ended at Waverley Cemetery in October 2001.

In total, 13 of the incidents took place in the mid to late 1980s, 13 were spread across in the 1990s and five of them in, or after, the year 2000.

Survivors gave similar descriptions of their attacker — 160 to 180 cm tall, dark complexion, wavy hair, brown eyes and a wide nose.

His physique changed from being of “thin build” to “athletic or muscular” as the years went by.

The man always kept his face covered and wore casual clothes, tracksuits, hoodies or footy shorts.

He either threatened his victims with a knife or made them believe he had one on him.

Over the years, the mystery predator was variously labeled the “Centennial Park rapist”, the “Bondi rapist”, the “tracksuit rapist” and, finally, the “Bondi Beast” in the media.

The fact that they were all the same person, as the police now believe, would not be known for decades.

All incidents were investigated at the time, but the police were unable to make any breakthroughs.

It wasn’t until new technology became available that the police could identify several men linked to a DNA train associated with the victims.

In September this year, it was confirmed that Mr. Simms’ DNA matched the suspect’s.

“Strike Force Doreen investigators have since contacted the survivors and advised the man has been identified, but due to the circumstances, no further legal action can be taken,” police said in a statement.

Police say the investigation shows survivors of sexual assault should report matters at the earliest opportunity.

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