A man who kidnapped a woman and subjected her to a horrendous sexual attack has been sentenced to 20 years in prison – with an additional 4 years on licence.
Peter Lee Watton, 37, of Henley Road, Lache, Chester, was charged with 12 offences: false imprisonment, eight counts of rape, two counts of assault by penetration, and possession of a bladed article.
He was convicted at Chester Crown Court last month and was sentenced on Friday 7th February.
A 44-year-old woman was attacked on the afternoon of Friday 14 June 2013 while jogging with her pet dog in woodland in the Dukes Drive area of Handbridge, Chester. She was held for several hours during which she was raped and sexually assaulted numerous times, before managing to escape.
After a six day manhunt Watton was located and arrested in North Wales.
Detective Inspector Simon Lonsdale said:
“The bravery of the victim is extraordinary.
I am humbled by her courage and determination which has enabled us to return a very dangerous man back to prison for a long time.
“Watton put the victim through a terrifying ordeal lasting several hours and had the audacity to claim the contact was consensual. Consequently the victim had to attend court and give evidence at the trial. Thankfully the jury saw through his lies and deceit and he will stay behind bars where he belongs.
“This case will obviously be very concerning to people, particularly in the Chester area, but I just want to stress that horrendous as it is, thankfully incidents like this are extremely rare for Cheshire as a whole. I would like to reassure the public that, as they can see from the outcome of this case, when they do occur they are dealt with very seriously and swiftly to ensure dangerous men like Watton are removed from the streets and put behind bars where they belong.”
At about 3pm on Friday 14 June 2013, the victim set off from the car park of LA Fitness on Wrexham Road along the tarmac path through the woods.
Watton was walking in the opposite direction and pushing a bicycle.
He spoke to the victim telling her to enjoy her run. Moments later she was grabbed from behind and literally carried into the wooded area.
Watton initially had his face covered and threatened to harm the victim if she called out, telling her he had a knife and had been watching her for weeks.
He held the victim captive for several hours moving to different areas within the woods and subjecting her to repeated sexual assaults.
The victim knew that Watton was armed with a knife and was convinced that she would be killed.
He appeared to be moving her closer to the River Dee and she feared she would be thrown in.
Eventually, she saw an opportunity to escape and as Watton was distracted she ran to nearby houses. It was by now midnight and she ran to where she saw lights.
She knocked on the door of a house and told the occupants she had been attacked and raped.
They allowed her into their home and called the police.
The victim was able to give a detailed description of her attacker which led to the early identification of Watton as a suspect.
An immediate and intensive manhunt was launched including the unusual step of publicising Watton in the media as being wanted in connection with the attack.
On Thursday 20 June an off duty Special Constable was travelling on a train from Chester to Birmingham.
The driver had stopped the train in a remote area having seen a person walking on the track. He pointed the man out to the officer who recognised it to be Watton.
The Special Constable got off the train and went in search of Watton. Police were called to the area and an extensive search undertaken over several hours.
It was realised that Watton had been living rough under a remote railway bridge and his smouldering camp fire led officers to his camp.
He heard the officers moving through the undergrowth and fled.
He was arrested trying to escape along the hard shoulder of the A483 in Wrexham.