A DANGEROUS pervert who followed a 16-year-old girl from a bus before forcing her into bushes to commit a sickening sex attack is behind bars.

Andrew Nichols grabbed his terrified victim’s phone as she tried to call her mother and threw it away as he pushed her to the ground, telling her she was a "lovely looking lady".

The 53-year-old then removed her clothing and sexually assaulted her, stopping only when he was disturbed by a passing 13-year-old girl.

Durham Crown Court heard the attack took place on September 21 after the A-level student left Stanley bus station on her way home.

Prosecuting, Liz Muir said: “She started to hear footsteps behind her.

“Initially, she thought nothing of it, but she was aware of it and she altered her pace.

“As she did so, the footsteps also altered their pace.

“She decided to stop, and the footsteps also stopped.”

Ms Muir said the girl tried to hide behind a van but was so scared she fell over as she tried to call for help.

The defendant approached her and put his arm around her and when she asked what he was doing he remained silent and smiled at her.

After he pushed her to the ground the victim kicked him in the groin, but he hit her across the head before sexually assaulting her.

The attack lasted under a minute and the man walked off when the other youngster turned up.

The court heard he returned and offered to take his victim to the police station.

The victim ran away, and the younger girl called the police but the court heard Nichols made his own way to the police station telling officers he was there because of ‘reports on the radio’.

He was arrested and police found he was carrying a Stanley knife.

At an earlier hearing Nichols, of Sidney Street, Blyth, pleaded guilty to sexual assault by penetration, sexual assault and possession of a blade.

In a statement read to the court the victim said she was suffering from anxiety as a result of the ordeal.

She said: “The incident has severely impacted my mental health and left me feeling unsafe. I am scared to be alone in my own home and feel unable to leave the house without somebody with me.

“I struggle to sleep as I experience nightmares during the night.

“I have experienced flashbacks walking along corridors at college and hearing footsteps causes me to feel extremely anxious. It is never far from my mind.”

Mitigating, Lewis Kerr said his client had suffered from poor mental health and delusions for several years and had not been taking his medication.

He said he had pleaded guilty at the earliest possible opportunity.

The court heard Nichol was jailed in 1997 for seven years for the rape of a ten-year-old girl.

Nichol was jailed for a total of 11 years and four months for the attack in Stanley, and ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register for life.

Judge James Adkin also made him the subject of a lifetime sexual harm prevention order.

The judge said: “There is a measure of abduction and certainly severe psychological harm.

“This is a serious case, but is not serious enough to be a life sentence case.

“You targeted a vulnerable girl who was a complete stranger.

“You present a high risk of reoffending. You are a dangerous offender.”

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After the hearing police praised the victim for speaking out and the witness who prevented the attack from being even more serious.

Detective Sergeant Gareth Hodgson said: “This was an unprovoked attack on a young girl which understandably was hugely traumatic and distressing.

“I would like to acknowledge their bravery in speaking up against their abuser.

“I would also like to thank a valuable witness who came to the aid of the victim and contacted police, it was this courage and quick thinking that allowed Nichols to be quickly identified, arrested and now behind bars.”

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