A FORMER Amesbury man found dead with his wife in a fume-filled car would have been prosecuted for rape offences committed more than 20 years ago, police revealed this week.

Christopher Downes (50) was discovered with his wife Christine (51) in a car with its engine running in Andover last week, just four days after police had interviewed him in connection with the armed robbery of a pregnant woman and the rape at knifepoint of two further women in Salisbury between 1984 and 1985.

Police revealed at a press conference on Tuesday that DNA samples taken from Downes last week matched exactly samples taken from the scene of one of the Salisbury offences in 1984.

Detective Inspector Sean Memory, who led the team of detectives re-examining the case, confirmed that they were "now not looking for anyone else in connection with the attacks on three Salisbury women".

He also confirmed that had Downes been still alive he would have faced prosecution for rape, attempted rape, aggravated burglary and false imprisonment.

Downes, who was living in Amesbury during the 1980s, had previous convictions for attempted rape and violence against prostitutes.

In November 1987 he had been sentenced to six months in jail by a court in Southampton for slashing a prostitute with a Stanley knife - it was a Stanley knife that the rapist had used to threaten two of his Salisbury victims.

In June 1990 Downes was back in court again at Southampton and was jailed for four years for attempting to choke a prostitute and using a knife to threaten her. He also faced charges of attempting to rape a woman.

Wiltshire's chief crown prosecutor, Karen Harrold, said: "The strongest piece of evidence was a DNA sample which positively matched a sample at the scene of one of the Salisbury crimes."

She said a piece of rope, similar to that used in the 1980 offences, was found at Downes' Andover home and "paperwork" found in his home indicated that Downes was "aware of key features of the Salisbury cases which had never been in the public domain."