A sick rapist who evaded justice for 40 years has died behind bars.
John Merritt's sickening crimes were caught out four decades on from the abuse he unleashed on two children in the 1970s, when he was known as Walter Merritt. In the time between his grim acts and his death, Merritt had managed to start a family and was a married father-of-four.
All the while his victims had lived with the trauma of his shocking crimes, which included pouncing on a boy after inviting the youngster in for tea and cake. Merritt had also lured a separate victim with chocolate before raping him, MEN reported.
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A formal complaint from Boy A was made in 2016, two years on from a letter received by police allegedly detailing the abuse, which led to no further action. In an interview, Boy A mentioned others, including Boy B, who was traced by the force.
Investigations confirmed there were "independently provided accounts which bore a number of similarities" and Liverpool Crown Court soon heard the grisly details of a horrific case. Boy A had been offered chocolate by Merritt before he was raped in a bathroom and a nearby field.
Boy B was also raped in the bathroom, with Merritt pouncing on the youngster when his mum invited him in for tea and cake. The unnamed man has said the abuse "destroyed" his life, while Merritt continually denied any wrongdoing.
He was found guilty at trial and the court heard of three convictions prior to the rapes, including wounding a 15-year-old girl after throwing a bike cog, possessing a weapon in 1980 and a racially aggravated public order offence in 2015.
After sentencing in April 2021, Merritt was thrown behind bars in HMP Wymott where he was to serve an eight year sentence, but a cancer diagnosis struck a year later. The sick rapist began struggling with back pain before it spread to his stomach.
Weight loss concerns were picked up in October 2022, and by December 2022, Merritt was told he had just six months to live. He had declined chemotherapy and in February 2023 was taken to a local hospital for palliative care. He died 10 days later.
An investigation into his death was carried out by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman which concluded: "Mr John Merritt died in a hospice on February 26, 2023 of pancreatic cancer, while a prisoner at HMP Wymott. He was 61 years old.
"We offer our condolences to Mr Merritt’s family and friends. The clinical reviewer concluded that the care Mr Merritt received at Wymott was equivalent to that which he could have expected to receive in the community. We found no non-clinical issues of concern. We make no recommendations."
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