Two Co-op store workers who helped catch a street sex attacker who preyed on a young woman have been praised by a judge for their “public spirited actions”.
Nathan Rawson was brought to justice thanks to the quick thinking of Andrew Parkinson and Paul Muscroft after they saw the pervert stalking one of their customers.
A court heard Mr Parkinson, 45, spotted the danger when he went outside for a cigarette break after serving Rawson at the store on Cardigan Road, Burley.
Rawson, 21, hid in a phone box and watched as the victim headed out of the 24-hour store at 6am, on February 27 last year, and followed her.
Father-of-four Mr Parkinson got into his car and drove in search of the woman, stopping to alert Mr Muscroft, 40, who was on his way to work to start an early shift.
Leeds Crown Court was told the victim realised she was being followed when she reached Beechwood Crescent and headed down a side street in order to get away from him.
Rawson ran up and grabbed her from behind. He put his hand over the woman’s mouth when she started to scream.
The attack ended when Mr Parkinson and Mr Muscroft heard the screams and ran to the victim’s aid.
Rawson ran off but dropped a passion fruit drink bottle he as had bought in the store. He was arrested after the pair recovered the bottle and it was found to contain Rawson’s DNA. Rawson denied sexual assault but was found guilty by a jury after a trial and jailed for 21 months.
The court heard he carried out a burglary at a house on Argie Avenue, Kirkstall, while he was on bail awaiting trial.
During that offence he stole jewellery and other valuables but was arrested a short time later after a member of the public saw him leaving the property.
Judge Guy Kearl, QC, praised Mr Parkinson and Mr Muscroft for helping the victim
He told Rawson: “Both deserve praise for their brave and public spirited actions. They were seeking to protect her and they caused you to run. This was no doubt a terrifying incident for her.”
After the case Mr Parkinson, from Castleford, told the YEP: “I realised he was up to something as he was pretending to be drunk and then as soon as he saw her walking away he acted normally and walked quickly behind her.
“I’m glad we were able to stop him before the attack got any worse. I think we only did what people would do and I’m glad she was ok.”
Father-of-three Mr Muscroft said: “A lot of people these days just turn a blind eye to bad things happening around them. But we are not like that.”
The pair were presented with a plaque by their employers to mark their bravery.
A spokesperson for the Co-op said: “ We would like to praise Andrew and Paul and that’s why we have recognised them for their actions.”
Inspector Howie Milner, who heads the Inner North West Partnership Working Area, said: “We fully support the judge’s comments in recognising the quick thinking and public-spirited actions of these two men who are a credit to themselves and to their employers.
“While we never actively encourage members of the public to put themselves at risk by directly intervening in a crime, their actions have clearly prevented this incident going any further and saw the recovery of a crucial piece of evidence that placed Rawson at the scene.
“We regularly encounter great examples of community spirit such as this and it is always reassuring to see. The public have a key role to play in helping us to tackle crime and keep our communities safe and it is vital that we continue to recognise the invaluable help and support we receive such as we have on this occasion.”
‘CREDIT TO THEIR EMPLOYERS’
Police also thanked the two men for their role helping to bring Nathan Rawson to justice.
After the case, Inspector Howie Milner, who heads the Inner North West Partnership Working Area, said: “We fully support the judge’s comments in recognising the quick-thinking and public-spirited actions of these two men who are a credit to themselves and to their employers.
“While we never actively encourage members of the public to put themselves at risk by directly intervening in a crime, their actions have clearly prevented this incident going any further.”