A man believed to be Joseph McCann, the suspect in three rapes in south-east England, was surrounded on Sunday night by officers in Cheshire who suspect he may be behind an attempt to abduct two women in the area earlier that day.
The suspect was encircled by police, who had tracked him to an isolated rural area after the attempted double abduction in the market town of Congleton, and were confident they would capture him.
According to reports, the man was evading capture by hiding in a tree on a country lane as police helicopters monitored the scene from above.
Cheshire constabulary said the man was talking to trained negotiators. A source with knowledge of the manhunt said: “He’s surrounded by officers, he won’t be going anywhere.”
McCann, 34, was already being hunted on suspicion of the abduction and rape of three women in London and Watford last month when he was linked to the attempted kidnap of two other women on Sunday evening.
At 6.45pm two women were forced into a black Fiat Punto in Congleton town centre. The car was spotted by officers who gave pursuit. It then collided with another car and the driver fled on foot, leaving the women in the car.
The two women abducted in Congleton were not injured, police said, but they were left extremely shaken as a result of their ordeal and were being supported by specially trained officers.
McCann was named last week by police in connection with the abduction and rape of two women who were plucked off the street in north London on the same day, 25 April. It subsequently emerged that he was also a suspect in the abduction and rape of a third woman who was attacked at knifepoint in Watford, Hertfordshire, on 21 April.
A spokesperson for the Metropolitan police, hunting McCann for the double attack in London, said they were aware of the Congleton incident and were liaising with Cheshire police. A reward of £20,000 has already been offered for McCann’s capture.
He is suspected of having committed the series of rapes and abductions after being released early from prison on licence, where he had been serving a three-year sentence for theft and burglary.
However, it later emerged that he may have been released early in error. He is thought to have been released automatically halfway through his three-year sentence, but it was reported that it should have been up to a parole board to decide whether he was released or stayed behind bars because he was still subject to licence relating to a previous offence.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said last week that an urgent review had been launched into what happened in the case and McCann had been recalled on 23 April 2019 and that his licence had been revoked.
Police said that McCann speaks with a slight Irish accent and has the name “Bobbie” tattooed on his stomach. Detectives fear that he may use violence if he believes he is going to be detained, and that he may attempt to disguise his appearance, adding that he also uses false names, most recently calling himself “Joel”.
The Metropolitan police said: “McCann is described as being of muscular build and 5ft 10in tall. He has blue eyes, a bald head or shaved blond hair with a light-coloured short beard.”