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A former contestant on ITV's The X Factor has been convicted of rape, and is now sentenced to life in prison. Phillip Blackwell competed in the 2008 season of the British reality TV music competition series and went on to tour with the live show in 2009. He had admitted to 31 sex offenses before receiving his life sentence.
The 56-year-old Phillip Blackwell pleased to guilty to rape, attempted rape, indecent assault, assault by penetration, voyeurism, and false imprisonment over a period of 22 years, according to the BBC. His targets were reportedly young women walking alone, and he "plied" victims with alcohol, with some women unconscious when attacked.
In carrying out his attacks, Phillip Blackwell reportedly taped victims' eyes shut, bound their hands, covered their eyes, wore a balaclava to cover his face, used a camcorder to record, and threatened them to prevent them from alerting authorities.
The attacks began in the late 1990s and picked up between 2005-2019. Lawrence English of the West Midlands Rape and Serious Sexual Offences Unit said that Blackwell "serially raped women in the 1990s, and again in the 2000s," citing "recent chilling footage" of Blackwell following women in his car and doubling back toward them after getting ahead of them.
Judge Peter Cook stated that Phillip Blackwell had "no regard whatsoever for [women] as human beings" and that he "must treat them with a level of contempt that is too shocking to even contemplate." Blackwell has been sentenced to life in prison, but not without the possibility of parole. He will be eligible for consideration for parole after serving a minimum sentence of nine years.
Phillip Blackwell did not win his season of The X Factor in 2008, and he continued his attacks through his capture in 2019. He auditioned in Season 5, at which point the judges were Simon Cowell (who created the show), Dannii Minogue, Cheryl Cole, and Louis Walsh. Blackwell went on the show's national tour the next year. Prosecutor Adrian Langdale elaborated on the case and Blackwell's decision to go on a national TV show and tour (via TooFab):
He went on The X Factor national tour. It would appear to be a risk to do this but was happy to take. He ran the risk of being identified outweighed his desire for fame. His offending continued after his two minutes of fame.
The former X Factor competitor pleaded guilty to 11 counts of sexual offenses against five separate victims of the span of 15 months between February 1997 - May 1998 in his initial court appearance back in 2020, according to The Crown Prosecution Service, but admitted to 20 more counts in May 2020 for crimes between 2005-2019. He was caught in 2019 following a DNA connection to a rape in the 1990s.
The CPS used DNA evidence, witness testimony, and video evidence in building the case against Phillip Blackwell, and Senior Crown Prosecutor Karen Hackett stated that the life sentence "rightly reflects the seriousness of Blackwell’s offending" and "ensures he will no longer be a danger to the public." The prosecution team also commended the victims for their courage during the difficult time of the case.