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Sex attack cold case: $500,000 reward to solve 1980s attacks on elderly Newport woman

Jessie Grace Lauder (right) with a relative. Photo: SuppliedPolice have offered a $500,000 reward to find a man who attacked an elderly Newport woman twice in two years in the 1980s.
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Changes to DNA testing have allowed police to rule out three other suspects in the sex attacks cold case, and detectives warned on Sunday it was “only a matter of time” before the offender was caught.

Eighty-two-year-old Jessie Grace Lauder was getting ready for bed around 10pm on September 22, 1981, when she heard a loud bang from the back of her Mason Street house.

She was confronted by a knife-wielding man wearing gloves, a red and blue beanie and a mask.

He demanded $10 from the terrified grandmother before taking her into the dining room where she was sexually assaulted.

Sexual Crimes Squad Detective Nigel Freebairn said the same man returned two years later, on July 6, 1983.

Ms Lauder, who lived alone after the death of her husband in 1977 and died in 1993, had been getting ready for bed when the man again forced entry into her home.

Detective Freebairn said the man referenced his first offence and warned Ms Lauder not to call police.

There was no weapon used in the second attack, but Detective Freebairn said the offender placed a newspaper over Ms Lauder’s head as he left.

Detective Freebairn said on Sunday changes to DNA testing had allowed police to come closer to solving the cold case.

He told the offender, “we have your DNA, it’s only a matter of time before we have your name”.

“The community would be appalled at what happened to Jessie,” he said. “Two shocking offences and something we’re really keen to solve.”

The man was aged between 20 and 30 years old at the time of his crimes, but would be between 55 and 65 today.

Police believe the offender will be known to people who lived in the area at the time. Investigators said he was a local resident and may have limited social skills.

He’s described as 175 centimetres tall, with a fair complexion and dark hair. Police said he spoke with an Australian accent.

Anyone with information can contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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