The "bedroom rapist," who has terrorized the Scarborough bedrooms of sleeping girls and women, is the focus of the largest police manhunt in Toronto since the notorious rape spree of convicted killer Paul Bernardo.
The sexual predator, who has kept his identity so well-hidden that police cannot describe his race, age or even the sound of his voice, struck again last week, breaking into four homes within 24 hours.
The latest round of attacks started last Sunday when a 15-year-old girl was jolted out of her sleep by a man strangling her with his hands. The girl was able to scream and strike back, but as her father raced to her rescue, the attacker fled.
At 4 a.m. Monday, a woman was sexually assaulted in her home. Two hours later, an elderly woman was sexually assaulted in her bed as her husband slept next to her. When the husband awoke, the rapist fled.
Hours later, a suspect believed to be the rapist broke into another home but left without assaulting anyone.
"We can't pin down what this person looks like because nobody's seen his face," said Toronto police Inspector Tony Warr, head of the Sexual Assault Squad's investigative team.
"His face is covered, or he covers the face of the victims so they can't see him. Most just catch a glimpse of a shadow."
The police say rapist has struck 12 times since the attacks started June 2. He wears gloves and has spoken a total of two words to his victims -- not enough for police to determine if he speaks with an accent.
Police last week circulated a composite drawing of a man who was seen in the area of the home where the teen-age girl was attacked.
"A number of witnesses were concerned enough to call in and identify this fellow to us," Warr said.
Police sources say a reward of about $35,000 (U.S. funds) will be offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the bedroom rapist.
Police Sgt. Martin Hunt said of the three known serial rapists operating in Toronto, the one active in the West End turned himself in to police last week, while the one at work in the North End has been inactive "for some time."
"The bedroom rapist is our priority now," he said. "It's the worst case since Bernardo. But this one has not approached the same level of violence."
Bernardo, who first gained infamy as the Scarborough rapist in the late 1980s and early '90s, is serving a life prison term for the brutal kidnapping, rape and murder of two Niagara-area teen-agers, Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French.