A MAN who had exchanged messages with a woman – some of a “flirting nature” – sexually assaulted her after turning up at her door unannounced in the early hours of the morning, a court heard.

Both Martin Sheehan and the woman had been drinking separately in Durham, in his case on a work Christmas night out with colleagues.

Durham Crown Court was told that, “out of the blue” the woman, who had been dropped off at home after a night out with a cousin and her partner in the city, received a message from Sheehan telling her to go to the front door, at 3.40am.

Ian Mullarkey, prosecuting, said she opened the door to see Sheehan outside. She asked what he was doing there, but he slowly walked in and tried to kiss her.

She said”no” and told him to leave, trying to stand in the light of the open doorway so a passing motorist might see her, but to no avail.

Sheehan fell towards her, pressing her against a kitchen unit, before committing a sexual assault.

Mr Mullarkey said the woman repeatedly told him to get off her, kneeing him three times, before grabbing a phone to ring for the police.

Sheehan ran from the house, apologising, but an hour later tried to repeatedly ring her, calls she ignored, before he messaged her urging her not to ring the police.

He was arrested and told police he did not go to the house with the intention of any sexual activity taking place.

But Sheehan, 30, of Skipton Close, Newton Aycliffe, admitted a charge of sexual assault, on the day of his scheduled trial for a more serious sexual offence, last month.

Andrew Walker, mitigating, said Sheehan now fully accepts responsibility for his actions on December 22, 2018.

But he claimed the sexual touching was, “to an extent” inadvertent and he apologised immediately as he left.

Mr Walker said Sheehan has been out of trouble as an adult and is remorseful.

Judge James Adkin said a probation report classed him as a low risk of future offending and, as he appears “genuinely apologetic”, realising he behaved, “entirely inappropriately”, he could suspend the 13-month prison sentence for two years, during which Sheehan must undergo 30 rehabilitation activity days. He was also made subject of a restraining order and registration as a sex offender, both for ten years.