A rapist policeman has been freed from prison less than seven years after he was jailed for life for attacking up to 30 vulnerable women he had met on duty.
Stephen Mitchell raped and sexually abused heroin addicts and a disabled teenager by offering them help while in custody, then demanding sexual favours afterwards.
The former soldier was handed two life sentences at Newcastle Crown Court in 2011 and was told he would not be eligible for parole for at least seven and a half years.
But the 50-year-old has since been released and was seen enjoying life on the outside, riding a £500 bike, according to a report by the Sunday People.
Mitchell’s victims and campaigners are outraged over his release, saying it was wrong Mitchell, who was deemed a ‘high risk to women’ by psychiatrists, was freed.
One victim told the Sunday People: ‘It’s wrong that he can get on with his life, when he has ruined so many others.’
Another added: ‘I certainly didn’t expect him to get out so quickly.
‘I have never, ever heard of anyone getting parole first time around for such a serious offence, given the fact he was so manipulative and never admitted anything.
‘He deliberately chose victims who were vulnerable and wouldn’t be believed if they ever dared speak up.’
She continued: ‘I honestly think he has used everything he learned in the Army and the police to help him get parole by just telling them what he knew they would want to hear. He knows exactly what he’s doing.
‘He managed to get away with what he was doing, despite being in the police, so he is very cunning.’
Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper called for the Parole Board to review its decision.
She said: ‘We urgently need to know what the Parole Board’s reasons were because to most people this really does not look like justice for victims.
‘The Justice Secretary needs to tell us urgently what progress he has made since the decision on John Worboys to stop the same things happening all over again.’
The ordeal of Mitchell’s most frequent victim began in 1999 when she was caught with a friend trying to cash stolen cheques in Marks and Spencer.
‘The first thing that struck me as odd was that he told my friend to **** off,’ the 30-year-old graduate said.
‘I was then handcuffed and taken in the back of a van with Mitchell. In my pocket I had an eighth of an ounce of heroin. I wasn’t dealing. I just had a massive habit, but I was worried I would be done for dealing.
‘When I got to the police station, I was put in a cell but Mitchell came in and gave me the heroin back. It was then that I realised he must be dodgy. Later, we were in an interview room – just me and him. He kept telling me not to get a solicitor, to just trust him.
‘He kept saying, ‘You help me and I’ll help you. You’ll never see me again’.
Mitchell made her perform a sex act on him. There was no CCTV within the police station and without any proof it would simply have been her word against his.
A year later Mitchell re-arrested her and took her to a field where he indecently assaulted her in the dark.
He then began turning up at her house and finding reasons to arrest her and let her off with a caution – in return for sexual favours. He would also take her for a drive in his patrol car before forcing her to carry out sex acts on him.
‘He kept telling me I was disgusting and he was doing me a favour because no other man would have me,’ she said.
When she tried to escape by moving house, Mitchell traced her through the police computer.
And when she began to turn her life around and started studying for a degree he blackmailed her, threatening to arrest her for new offences unless she submitted to his demands.
He forced her to give him the keys to her flat and in 2003 he raped her.
‘He put my arms behind my back and handcuffed me,’ she said. ‘He pulled my shoulders back so hard, it felt like they were dislocated.’
Mitchell, originally from Glasgow, raped and sexually abused vulnerable women during his reign of terror.
During a five-week trial, the PC claimed he was the victim of a conspiracy hatched by the criminal underworld, and labelled his accusers liars.
But after nearly a week of deliberation, a jury convicted him of raping two women and carrying out three further indecent assaults.
One of Mitchell’s victims, a 19-year-old drug addict when he first struck, estimated she had been abused 100 times as he kept track of her using the police computer.
Yet his colleagues ignored a series of warnings about his behaviour – some of them from his own wife. They were unaware that he had already stood trial for sex offences before he was recruited to the force.
He was eventually sacked in 2007 for having ‘consensual’ sex with one of his victims, only to be reinstated on appeal eight months later.
And when he was finally stopped, a senior detective with Northumbria Police offered him ‘a get out of jail free card’ if he agreed to resign. He refused, opting to take his chances in court.
Mitchell – a tall, muscular former soldier – was found guilty of two rapes, three indecent assaults and six charges of misconduct in a public office, involving a total of seven women.
He was cleared of three further rape charges, two indecent assaults and counts of misconduct involving another nine women. But police suspect he attacked at least a further 14.
Brought up in a Glasgow tower block, Mitchell joined the 1st Battalion Queen’s Own Highlanders in 1990 and a year later allegedly attempted to rape two male soldiers and sexually assault a third.
Military police questioned him but the case went no further after he claimed that it was nothing more than ‘horseplay’.
In 1994 he quit the Army and moved to the North East to be with his girlfriend, Julie Arnold, a penfriend whom he married a year later.
In 1997, following a complaint from one of the alleged victims in the Army sex case, he stood trial in Edinburgh only for it to collapse when two witnesses refused to give evidence.