Seven Scotland Yard blunders helped the notorious Night Stalker rapist continue his reign of terror on the elderly for a decade, the police watchdog has revealed.
Detectives failed to follow up on a string of "basic" lines of inquiry which could have led to Delroy Grant's capture in 1999, an Independent Police Complaints Commission report found.
Confusion over the suspect's name, failures in communication and a string of mistakes in the initial phase of investigations had "potentially dire consequences".
The IPCC report related to a police chance to detain Grant - who is believed to have preyed on hundreds of elderly men and women across south London - after an eyewitness to one of his burglaries in Bromley in May 1999.
The witness saw the balaclava-clad suspect and took a note of his BMW's registration number, which was confirmed by officers to belong to Grant.
Yet Grant was not arrested or asked to give a DNA sample which could have linked him with his catalogue of crimes.
The IPCC's Operation Minstead final report singled out seven points in the 1999 investigation which "should have been pursued".
Police failed to obtain statements from the victim; obtain statements from the eyewitness; obtain property details of what was stolen;complete house-to-house inquiries; obtain a search warrant for Grant's address; recover the vehicle for forensic examination; arrest and interview Grant.
Police were forced to apologise for bungling the manhunt before Grant was jailed for life.
The 53-year-old former minicab driver, of Brockley Mews, Honor Oak, was convicted at Woolwich Crown Court in March of a 17-year campaign of sexual terror.