A predator’s increasingly risk-taking sexual behaviour culminated in him performing a sex act behind a tourist taking photographs of Durham Cathedral, a court heard.

Kurtis Russell Mawson was on bail for a series of previous sexual offences which were under investigation when he carried out the public act of indecency on the lone female visitor to Durham, on Prebends Bridge, at about 5pm on June 28, last year.

Durham Crown Court was told that as she was looking out from the bridge, taking photographs of the cathedral, the victim heard footsteps approaching from behind.

Liam O’Brien, prosecuting, said she assumed whoever it was, was also taking pictures of the cathedral.

The Northern Echo: Sexual predator Kurtis Mawson performed sex act on lone female tourist taking photographs of Durham

But Mr O’Brien said to the tourist’s shock she then felt something on her leg and, turning, noticed the person responsible had left.

Mr O’Brien said the distressed woman sought help from passers-by and was taken to a nearby coffee shop.

Police took samples from what was on her leg and coat and analysis found it contained the DNA of the defendant, who was on bail for other sexual-related matters at the time.

Four weeks later Mawson was seen behaving in a suspicious manner on the same bridge and was arrested but denied having been responsible for the incident the previous month.

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In her victim statement the tourist said she had been excited to come to Durham, but the incident left her shocked and speechless, and she felt disgusted at what happened.

She said as a result she would not wear shorts or a skirt again and she felt ashamed to report the incident to the police.

Mawson, now 22, of High Street, Willington, admitted a charge of sexual assault when he appeared before magistrates in Peterlee in August last year and has remained on remand in custody in Durham Prison since.

Mr O’Brien said earlier sexual offences committed by Mawson were still under investigation at the time, while he has also been subject of both psychiatric and Probation Service reports into the risk he poses.

The court heard he fell to be sentenced having now admitted offences of possessing indecent photos of children, including some downloaded after he was under investigation over other images previously found on seized devices, plus an offence of voyeurism.

Mr O’Brien told the court that following a complaint from a woman using female toilets next to the Odeon cinema, in Riverwalk, Durham, on May 5, 2022, Mawson was found hiding in a cubicle.

He was searched and found to be in possession of a miniature digital camera device, on which he had photographed women using the public toilets.

The defendant admitted having tried and failed to do this on a previous occasion.

In his police interview he also admitted using aliases, including ‘Patrick Bateman’, a fictional narcissistic protagonist in the novel An American Psycho, to gain access to dating and gaming sites online, in breach of a previously issued Sexual Referral Order.

Brian Mark, for the defendant, who he said has slight Asperger’s syndrome, told the court that his time spent on remand in custody has given him an insight into his offending for which he is now ashamed and apologises.

Mr Mark said whichever prison the defendant serves his inevitable prison sentence he needs assistance to overcome his issues.

“What he wants to do is to have treatment so when he comes out of prison he doesn’t end up going back into prison.”

Judge Jo Kidd told Mawson that between October 2021 and June 28, last year, he committed a number of offences, “representing a pattern of disturbing, behaviour which has escalated significantly, leading to the offence on Prebends Bridge, in Durham”.

She quoted from the author of one of the reports before the court, who described the defendant having, “struggled to regulate his sexual preoccupation and unpredictable, indiscriminate and disturbing predatory sexual behaviour”.

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Judge Kidd said the report concluded he poses a high risk of sexualised re-offending, including potential contact cases.

She said it was “extremely concerning” at the level of risk he was prepared to take in committing his offences.

Imposing a total sentence of 25 months’ imprisonment, she made Mawson subject to future restrictions under the terms of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order and notification as a sex offender, both for ten years.