Sexual predator who assaulted elderly women as they slept jailed for life

Burnley Crown court - google image
Burnley Crown court - google image

A "deviant" night prowler branded by a judge as "every woman's worst nightmare" has been jailed for life.

Sexual predator Zsolt Suhaj, 26, targeted elderly and vulnerable women as they slept in their beds over five months which culminated with the rape of a 66-year-old woman in October last year.

Most of his seven victims in the Nelson and Colne areas of Lancashire woke to find the Hungarian national standing over them and staring into their eyes.

Suhaj had been deported from Canada in 2012 after he committed a number of similar offences in Toronto during a one-week period, including the sexual assault of a woman as she sat with friends in a cafe and a house trespass in which the victim awoke to find Suhaj committing a sex act at her bedside.

It is believed he flew from his home country to the UK in January 2016 to join family members in East Lancashire.

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.

Burnley Crown 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, before he fled, while another woman raised the alarm when the defendant tried to gain entry through her patio doors.

His rape victim thought she was going to be murdered after Suhaj climbed through her bedroom window, placed his hands over her mouth, pushed her on to her bed and said: "I love sex, I want sex. I am not going to hurt you but I want sex."

Following the rape, detectives released CCTV images of the suspect and staff at a local takeaway recognised Suhaj and he was subsequently arrested.

When interviewed, Suhaj admitted to being at the scene of the crimes, all but one were bungalows, but said he was there to steal money and gold for drugs and food.

He then claimed at his trial that his rape victim had consented to sex after lying he had met up with her earlier in the day.

Last month, 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.

On Thursday, Suhaj, of Barkerhouse Road, Nelson, was sentenced in his absence after he was carried out of the dock in handcuffs by four officers after banging his head on the facing screen.

He had been warned by Judge Sara Dodd that he would be removed from the courtroom if he disrupted proceedings after he was earlier heard in the court from the cells screaming: "I am going to kill you, I am going to kill you."

When asked if he understood the warning, the defendant replied in Hungarian: "I am not interested in what you are talking about."

In sentencing, Judge Dodd said: "You are every woman's worst nightmare, as I said when you were convicted.

"In my judgment, given your previous convictions in Canada and the nature and number of these offences you are clearly dangerous.

"Canadian authorities described you as predatory and brazen. That is an assessment that I agree with.

"You targeted properties where you thought women were on their own, when they were most vulnerable when asleep in bed.

"You have no insight into your own deviant sexual behaviour.

"Until this changes you will continue to pose a significant risk of harm to women by the commissioning of further sexual offending."

Suhaj was sentenced to life for rape and ordered to serve a minimum of 11 years in jail before he can be considered for release by the Parole Board.

He received concurrent terms for the other offences.

Suhaj stroked the face of his rape victim in Colne and told her not to tell the police as he said he would be jailed for five years.

A small knife belonging to Suhaj was found next to the victim's bed which Judge Dodd said was "a sinister escalation" in his crimes.

The judge described Suhaj's defence against rape as "a spurious and unpleasant attack on an entirely blameless woman" and was further evidence of his intentions to "humiliate" her.

The victim said, in a personal statement read in court, that she had gone through four stages - shock, anger, denial and blame - and still could not believe what had happened to her.

She said she could no longer live in a bungalow and every noise she heard when she was alone "puts me on edge".

She went on: "I am scared of going into the other room. Scared that somebody will be in there. I don't know if this feeling will ever go away.

"I wish he had owned up to what he did to me ... I was being accused of things that were just not true and I couldn't believe the lies he was telling."

Suhaj's sexual assault victim said: "Not only did he violate my home but he violated my body."

She said the defendant had shown no remorse and had put her through the "horrific ordeal" of being forced to relive the attack in court.

She added: "I will never be the same person. The defendant tore out the heart of my home and me too.

"I feel that our home life, our family life, has been destroyed."

Another of his victims, aged 70, read out her personal statement from the witness box, screened from the defendant.

The widow said she had been "deeply affected" by waking up to find an intruder standing next to her bed.

"I was terrified, frightened and thought I would be attacked, or worse," she said.

"Over the following days and for several weeks I have had many nightmares and flashbacks, and still see him staring at me.

"My home is my haven and safe place. I don't feel like that any more. I feel violated.

"I have always tried to have a positive outlook on life but this has left me feeling old and vulnerable."

Following sentencing, Det Chief Inspector Gary Brooks, from Lancashire Police, said: "I am pleased with today's result given the seriousness and sinister nature of Suhaj's crimes.

"There is no doubt in my mind that he is a dangerous sexual predator whose behaviour escalated over the period of just a few months, culminating in the rape of an innocent woman who should have been safe in her own home.

"Before that, he let himself into the homes of other women intent on sexually assaulting them for his own sickening gratification.

"Suhaj has shown no regards or remorse towards his victims, forcing them through the ordeal of a trial where they had to relive what happened to them.

"I would like to commend them, in particular the woman who was subjected to a serious sexual assault, for showing extreme courage in coming forward and giving evidence.

"I hope that now Suhaj is behind bars they will now be able to move forward with their lives."