A MAN convicted of the rape and robbery of two women in an Orpington graveyard has been sentenced to life.

James Isted, aged 27, of Tintagel Road, Orpington, was sentenced at Croydon Crown Court today (February 7) and ordered to spend a minimum of nine years in prison.

He was found guilty of two counts of rape, two counts of robbery and one count of assault on a police officer at the same court in December.

The first incident occurred at around 2.40am on September 30, 2011.

The 17-year-old victim was walking along Church Hill, Orpington, when Isted came up behind her, hit her to the back of the head and dragged her into the graveyard of All Saints Church, Bark Hart Road.

There he raped her before robbing her handbag and a number of personal items including her mobile phone and running away.

Isted was arrested on October 4, 2011 and later released while officers conducted enquiries.

On May 7 2013 Isted committed a second offence in the same location.

At around 1.30pm he approached the second victim - a 27-year-old woman - from behind, threatening her with a knife before raping her in the grounds of the church.

A member of public witnessed the incident and called the police.

Officers on patrol nearby responded immediately and, although Isted was disturbed and ran off, he was chased by the officers and arrested.

He was found in possession of the victim's bank card and jewellery, including her engagement ring.

Unable to account for how he came to be in possession of these items, he was charged in connection with both incidents.

He appeared at Croydon Crown Court on August 1 last year where he pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Detective Inspector Faye Churchyard, of the Met Police’s sexual offences, exploitation and child abuse command, said: "Isted has shown a total disregard for both victims in this case, forcing them to re-live their ordeal by pleading not guilty to the offences.

"Both victims have shown immense courage in attending court and facing their attacker.

"I hope their determination and success in seeing him convicted will go some way in providing them with some closure.

"I believe there may be other victims who have not come forward and I urge them or any victim of rape to tell the police what happened to them.

"Specially trained officers together with our partners are here to support you throughout the process."

Anyone with information they believe may assist police is asked to call 0208 721 4614 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.