Year
1984
Month Day
August 17

A serial rapist strikes in England

The serial burglar and rapist known as “the Fox” breaks into a house and physically assaults a girl, her boyfriend and the girl’s brother near the village of Brampton, England. After raping the woman, the attacker proceeded to remove any traces of evidence from both his victim’s body and the surrounding area. The attack turned out to be a part of a crime spree had had begun in the spring of 1984 when a hooded burglar broke into several houses in an area north of London. A few months later, the thief turned to rape.

Despite the attacker’s efforts, detectives called to the scene near Brampton found fresh tire tracks in a field next to the victim’s home and a tiny flake of yellow paint on a nearby tree. A shotgun that the Fox had stolen from a previous victim was also found, hidden under some leaves. 

Police staked out the site, hoping that the Fox might return for the gun, but he never did. Fortunately, the paint flake turned out to be an essential clue; apparently, the color had been used only on a single model of a particular car manufacturer, Leyland, and that the car was produced in 1973 and 1974.

The victims also reported that the Fox had a northern accent. When investigators checked their records, they found more than 3,000 known burglars who were from northern England but had moved south. Detectives sent to investigate each of these men found a man washing a yellow Leyland in front of his house on September 11. Upon closer inspection, they noticed that a bit of paint was missing from the back of the car.

Malcolm Fairley confessed to the crimes after his arrest and received six life sentences in 1985.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

The first Miss Black America pageant takes place

At nearly three in the morning, Saundra Williams walked across a stage with a cream rhinestone cape around her shoulders, a sash across her torso and a scepter in her hand, ready to be crowned as pageant royalty. Though it was the same night as the Miss America pageant, Williams’ ...read more

Balloon crosses the Atlantic

The Double Eagle II completes the first transatlantic balloon flight when it lands in a barley field near Paris, 137 hours after lifting off from Presque Isle, Maine. The helium-filled balloon was piloted by Ben Abruzzo, Maxie Anderson, and Larry Newman and flew 3,233 miles in ...read more

General George S. Patton wins race to Messina

U.S. General George S. Patton and his 7th Army arrive in Messina several hours before British Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery and his 8th Army, winning the unofficial “Race to Messina” and completing the Allied conquest of Sicily. Born in San Gabriel, California, in 1885, ...read more

Dakota uprising begins in Minnesota

Minnesota erupts in violence as desperate Dakota Indians attack white settlements along the Minnesota River. The Dakota were eventually overwhelmed by the U.S. military six weeks later. The Dakota Indians were more commonly referred to as the Sioux, a derogatory name derived from ...read more

Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s last living henchman, dies

Rudolf Hess, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s former deputy, is found strangled to death in Spandau Prison in Berlin at the age of 93, apparently the victim of suicide. Hess was the last surviving member of Hitler’s inner circle and the sole prisoner at Spandau since 1966. Hess, an ...read more

Woodstock Music Festival concludes

On August 17, 1969, the grooviest event in music history–the Woodstock Music & Art Fair–draws to a close after three days of peace, love and rock ‘n’ roll in upstate New York. Conceived as “Three Days of Peace and Music,” Woodstock was a product of a partnership between John ...read more

Clinton testifies before grand jury

On August 17, 1998, President Bill Clinton becomes the first sitting president to testify before the Office of Independent Counsel as the subject of a grand-jury investigation. The testimony came after a four-year investigation into Clinton and his wife Hillary’s alleged ...read more

Billy the Kid kills his first man

Though only a teenager at the time, Billy the Kid wounds an Arizona blacksmith who dies the next day. He was the famous outlaw’s first victim. Just how many men Billy killed is uncertain. Billy himself reportedly once claimed he had killed 21 men—“One for every year of my life.” ...read more

East Germans kill man trying to cross Berlin Wall

East German guards gun down a young man trying to escape across the Berlin Wall into West Berlin and leave him to bleed to death. It was one of the ugliest incidents to take place at one of the ugliest symbols of the Cold War. READ MORE: All the Ways People Escaped Across the ...read more