Rapist who crept into homes faces lengthy jail sentence

A sexual predator branded every woman's "worst nightmare" faces a lengthy jail sentence after he was convicted of sneaking into homes to target vulnerable victims.

Thursday, 30th March 2017, 9:03 am
Updated Saturday, 8th April 2017, 10:27 pm
Zsolt Suhaj, 25, entered a number of addresses in the Colne and Nelson areas of Lancashire last year Pic: Lancashire Police

Hungarian national Zsolt Suhaj, 25, entered a number of addresses in the Colne and Nelson areas of Lancashire last year with the intention of sexually assaulting women while they slept.

Among his offences was the rape of a 66-year-old woman and the sexual assault of a 70-year-old woman.

Suhaj brazenly claimed sex with his rape victim was consensual after he met her in the street the night before and she had invited him to her home last October, and had even requested he enter through her bedroom window.

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A jury at Preston Crown Court took less than three hours to reject his account, labelled as "ludicrous" by prosecutors and "offensive" by the senior investigating officer, and found him guilty of a string of sexual offences.

During the trial it also emerged the defendant had similar previous convictions in Canada from 2012 when he committed a number of offences in Toronto during a one-week period.

Among his convictions, the jury heard, was a sexual assault of a woman as she sat with friends in a cafe and another home trespass in which the victim awoke to find Suhaj committing a sex act at her bedside.

It is understood Suhaj was placed on the Canadian sex offender database and was then deported to his home country after he served a custodial sentence.

In May 2013 he was convicted of theft in Hungary and then travelled to the UK in January 2016 where family members were living in East Lancashire, including a brother in Nelson.

Judge Sara Dodd adjourned sentencing until next month for reports to assess the level of danger that Suhaj poses to the public.

Following the return of the verdicts, she said: "It is everyone's, particularly a woman's, worst nightmare, to wake up with a stranger standing over you."

Suhaj mostly targeted bungalows, preying on elderly women, as he entered through insecure windows and doors during the early hours of the morning.

Last May he gained access to the Nelson home of a 70-year-old woman who woke to find Suhaj with his hand between her legs.

The grandmother, whose husband was sleeping in another room, said she screamed and tried to push his face away and eventually he left the house.

The court heard there were four more reports of women, aged between 22 and 84, waking to find Suhaj in their homes in July and August last year.

In one of the incidents the boyfriend of a sleeping woman disturbed Suhaj as he walked into her bedroom to find Suhaj standing over her as she was fast asleep.

He threw his mobile phone at him as Suhaj made his escape through the bedroom window.

Another of his victims said she woke to see a shadow in front of her wardrobe and then saw a man looking at her with "an intense hard stare" before he fled.

Suhaj was arrested at his home in Barkerhouse Road, Nelson, following the October rape in Colne after detectives released CCTV images and staff at a local takeaway recognised him.

When looking into the other offences, officers noticed similarities in the offender's description provided by the victims.

On Wednesday, Suhaj was found guilty of rape, sexual assault, trespassing with intent to commit a sexual offence at five homes and attempting to trespass with intent at another home.

He pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to five burglaries and one attempted burglary in relation to the same homes.

Suhaj will be sentenced at Burnley Crown Court on April 27.

Speaking at court, Detective Inspector Tim Brown, of Lancashire Police, said: "Suhaj is a very, very dangerous sexual predator who has committed a number of offences in a number of months that appeared to have escalated over time.

"I think it is very clear that he was specifically trying to target those he knew, or believed, to be vulnerable.

"His defence against rape was probably one of the most ridiculous that I have ever heard in my career. It was offensive."

Senior Crown Prosecutor Sophie Lorimer said: "Throughout the case he denied committing the sexual offences. He admitted being in all the homes but insisted he was looking for money and gold to steal. Nothing was stolen from any of the homes, even where valuable items could clearly be seen.

"He claimed that the sexual assault had been accidental and that he had had consensual sex with a woman after climbing through her bedroom window at four in the morning.

"However, the prosecution case was that that his intention was to carry out pre-planned sexual attacks.

"The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) applied for bad character evidence to be presented to the jury detailing how he had a history of committing similar offences in another country. The jury after carefully considering all the evidence against him have found him unanimously guilty of the sexual offences he faced.

"I would like to thank all the victims for showing great courage in coming forward and testifying against him in court, which has enabled the CPS to build a strong prosecution case and bring this dangerous sexual offender to justice."