Police Tape
Police were able to redact the victim's DNA from a sample collected after the crime and get a hit on the suspects identity. Getty Images

Police in New York have got a breakthrough in a rape case that has been unsolved for nearly two and a half decades after a DNA match identified the man who attacked a woman walking through Prospect Park in 1994.

Detectives identified serial rapist James Edward Webb, 68, as the suspect in the infamous rape. Webb, who is serving 75 years to life in Sing Sing for a string of sex attacks, was linked to the crime after his DNA was matched with genetic material collected following the crime.

"The DNA evidence we collected was co-mingled with the victim," NYPD chief of detectives, Robert Boyce, said Tuesday (9 January).

"At the time, we didn't have the technology to subtract the two and get a profile. It was difficult...one of those perfect storms of problems."

In November, detectives asked the victim to provide her DNA, which she did. Investigators then redacted it from the sample and ran the suspect's DNA and got a hit.

On 26 April 1994, the 29-year-old victim told police she was attacked and raped while walking home with her groceries. She said her attacker was carrying a large stick or cane and that he had demanded money after raping her next to a tree.

Both police and the late Daily News columnist Mike McAlary doubted the woman's claims, with the columnist calling the attack a "hoax". According to the New York Post, the woman later sued the Daily News and McAlary for libel but her case was dismissed by a Manhattan judge.

The victim learned the identity of her attacker Monday (8 January) during a "very emotional" meeting with detectives, sources told the Post. "We spoke with the victim last night," Boyce said. "You can imagine how emotional she was. I think my detectives cried with her." She reportedly felt vindicated, sources added.

Martin Garbus, the victim's lawyer, said it was "amazing" that the case was finally solved after more than two decades.

Webb was convicted of raping six women between 1969 and 1973 and later released on parole in 1993. In late 1995, he was arrested again for raping four other women between the ages of 15 and 37. It is not clear if Webb will face charges for this alleged rape.