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Former X-Factor contestant from Cornwall is jailed for life

Former X-Factor contestant from Cornwall is jailed for life

Published by Sarah Yeoman at 6:09am 28th July 2020.

A former X-Factor contestant from Cornwall has been jailed for life after admitting to a string of sex attacks on women across a 22-year period.

Phillip Blackwell, who auditioned for the 2008 series of the show but never reached the finals, was sentenced on Monday after pleading guilty in previous court hearings to 31 sex offences on nine women.

The 56-year-old, previously of Western Road, Launceston, had previously pleaded guilty to 13 counts of rape, one count of attempted rape, five counts of indecent assault, one count of false imprisonment, four counts of sexual assault, two counts of assault by penetration, four counts of voyeurism and one count of taking an indecent photograph of a child.

Warwick Crown Court had earlier heard how he had carried out the "cold" and "calculated" attacks since 1997 by sometimes taping his victims' eyes shut, putting on a "soft Irish accent", and using a camcorder to film himself in the act.

Delivering the sentence, Judge Peter Cooke said he found Blackwell "monstrous" and that he could think of "no more dangerous an individual" - besides murderers - that he had come across in his 35-year career in criminal law.

He told the defendant - who played in bands named AWOL, Missing People and Suspect - that it was clear he had equipped himself with a "rape kit" for the attacks, which consisted of a balaclava, a tape for binding hands and blindfolding, and a camcorder "to record for your later enjoyment".

"It is clear you that you have an appreciation for female anatomy but that seems to be the only regard you have for women.

"You have no regard whatsoever for them as human beings or the impact for what you do to them.

"You treat them with a level of contempt that is too shocking to even contemplate."

 Judge Peter Cooke

Blackwell was sentenced to life in prison. He will serve a minimum of nine years before he can be considered for parole. He will also have to sign the sex offenders' register for life. 

police officer

What happened?

Blackwell was responsible for attacks on five females in Nuneaton and the south of Birmingham in the late 1990s.

In each case, the young women were walking alone in the early hours of the morning when they were attacked from behind before being raped or subjected to other sexual offences.

Warwickshire Police launched Operation Fairway, working in collaboration with West Midlands Police and the National Crime Agency, to lead one of the biggest investigations ever carried out by the Warwickshire Force.

Despite the size of the investigation and DNA samples being taken from thousands of men in the area, Blackwell, who lived in Birmingham at the time, did not come to light as a suspect.

In 2003, Blackwell moved to Cornwall where he continued to offend.

It was when DNA was checked by officers from Devon and Cornwall Police as part of a 2019 investigation into a rape in Cornwall that he was linked to two of the attacks in the Midlands; one in Nuneaton and one in Birmingham.

He was arrested at his home in Launceston in January 2020 by officers from Devon and Cornwall Police.

Blackwell admitted to these attacks and three more in Birmingham.

Enquiries by Warwickshire Police led to offences against four females in Cornwall being identified.

What do police say?

“Today is about Blackwell’s victims. Nothing can ever take away the pain they have suffered but I hope they can take some comfort from seeing him behind bars.

“They have shown great bravery throughout; their collective courage has ensured a very dangerous man is going to prison.

“As a detective constable working on the case for Warwickshire Police in the 1990s I saw first hand the terror Blackwell caused in the community. We were telling women not to go out alone; something you never want to have to do as a police officer.

“Despite not being solved at the time, the offences in the Nuneaton and Birmingham were regularly reviewed for new evidence.

“It was clear that Blackwell was very careful in his offending and this may have led him to believe he had got away with it. However, the bravery of one his victims in Cornwall in reporting her ordeal at his hands and the wonders of DNA technology have today ensured Blackwell’s past has caught up with him.

“The scale of his offending was astonishing; he is a very dangerous man and prison is undoubtedly the best place for him.

“I hope today’s outcome gives everyone the confidence that we will work tirelessly to bring sex offenders to justice no matter how long ago the offences occurred.”

Assistant Chief Constable Debbie Tedds, from Warwickshire Police

phillip blackwell x-factor
Phillip Blackwell has been sentenced to life in prison. He will serve a minimum of nine years.

Statements from some of Blackwell's victims:

“This case has been incredibly distressing. These crimes have not only affected the survivors of his crimes, but our families and friends. I would like to thank Warwickshire Police for their diligent work and the support they have shown us.

“The harm he has caused can never be undone”

“I feel shocked by everything that has happened. I am simply existing rather than actually living. I am too distraught by what he has done. I believe he knew what he was doing was wrong and he took great pleasure in getting away with it. He is a very devious and dangerous man. I fear that he cannot be rehabilitated and will always be a threat to women and girls.”

"Phillip Blackwell has caused so much hurt and pain to myself and others over a very long period of time. The offences that he has committed against me have caused me unimaginable distress and left me traumatised. I feel broken and damaged."

“I hope he is feeling ashamed and disgusted with himself. I hope that he gets a huge wake up call to his actions and that he truly understands all the pain he has caused everyone.”

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