The police officer in charge of the hunt for a serial sex attacker prowling Lan Kwai Fong has strongly defended his decision not to warn women, saying the culprit's arrest and conviction justified it.
Assistant district commander for Central district Kenneth Pemberton confirmed he was asked by the victim of one of the attacks, on New Year's Eve, to issue a warning but said it was not clear at that stage that a single attacker was responsible.
'I didn't want to stoke fear among the public that there was a serial rapist or indecent assaulter ... I didn't want to cause unnecessary panic when the evidence we had at the time didn't warrant it,' he said.
'There were a lot of stories going around at the time about a gang of men raping women. It wasn't the case. The information the police had was that there had been some indecent assaults but the locations and the circumstances were not so close to say it was the work of one person.'
Pemberton said the DNA evidence that trapped the attacker was only discovered later in the investigation. 'I have no regrets whatsoever about the way the case was handled,' he said. 'It was proven to be the correct way because we got the guy convicted. Could we have done anything better? I don't know.
'If I had put the image out it would have been a massive, massive gamble because DNA evidence hadn't been found. If that hadn't been found, maybe the case would still be going.
'We would have had to rely on an ID parade and if I put out that photograph it would be a dream for a defence lawyer. In fact, the identification evidence would be useless.'
Pemberton said it was absurd to suggest women had been used as bait, but he confirmed that one of the concerns police had was that the attacker was a mainlander who might flee if his photograph or a general warning was issued.
'We had a chance to get this guy ... he was a nasty guy and we needed to get him. I didn't want him to run because the case would then go cold maybe and he would be back six, nine months or two years later.'
Pemberton added: 'I do feel sorry for the victims. Some of these assaults were not simple indecent assaults that lasted a second or so. I have three teenage daughters. I wanted as much as anyone to catch this guy and all the decisions I made were made with the best interests of the public at heart. They were judgment calls.
'It was one of the most important cases I have dealt with in the 21/2 years I have been in my post [in Central] because the offences were so nasty.
'I knew the lady was upset and concerned and did want us to put out this information but I had a responsibility to try to [solve] the case. I also have the responsibility to protect the public, so I had to consider what action to take.'