Manchester Evening News on why it covered Reynhard Sinaga case for 18 months - but was only able to report yesterday

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The Manchester Evening News has explained why it was only able to cover the shocking crimes of Reynhard Sinaga yesterday - despite it having a reporter on the case for over 18 months.

Sinaga was yesterday unmasked as one "the most prolific rapist in British legal history", according to the Crown Prosecution Service, after being convicted of 159 sex offences, including 136 rapes, against 48 men in Manchester city centre.

Reporting restrictions were lifted at a sentencing hearing at Manchester Crown Court, meaning Sinaga could be identified for the first time.

MEN reporter Beth Abbit followed the case through four trials stretching back to May 2018.

The prolific nature of Sinaga's crimes meant his case was split into four trials, but reporting restrictions were applied to ensure a fair trial.

In a piece published on its website, the MEN said: "[The police] believed if the media were to report details from ongoing trials it may have deterred potential victims, or witnesses, from coming forward to report the crimes, or from giving evidence in court.

"It was only after Sinaga had been tried four times for offences against 48 men, in hearings taking place over 18 months, that reporting restrictions were lifted."

The fourth trial was actually concluded on December 20th, but the paper explained that restrictions were extended until sentencing as "there were concerns about the availability for counselling services over the holiday period".

Abbit, who sat through each day of all four trials, said she was "utterly shocked" as the case unfolded.

She also paid tribute to the MEN for giving her the time to report on the story.

"I should mention that my bosses at @MENnewsdesk gave me time to cover the Reynhard Sinaga case properly, allowing me to sit in court each day, even though they had to wait more than a year for the story. Great to work for a paper that gives you that freedom," she wrote on Twitter.

And her editor, Darren Thwaites, praised Abbit's "extraordinary coverage".