A predator and would-be rapist who attacked two women was yesterday jailed for 14 years.
Sean Heaton blindfolded one victim and wore a ski mask while attacking another, and the court heard he admitted enjoying the first attack, leading him to plan the second.
The 48-year-old was yesterday told that the normal remission terms would not apply, and when he is released he will also be subject to a series of controls including on where he can live and who he can have relationships with.
His first victim was only 18 when he first struck on January 14, 2002.
She was wearing a new coat and eating a carry-out when Heaton grabbed her and took her down an entryway at the rear of his then-home in John Martin Street, Newry.
He blindfolded her, and the victim recalled that Heaton threatened to “score her face” so badly her family would not recognise her, and children would fear her.
Police held on to her coat and two years ago, nearly a decade after the attack, a partial thumbprint was recovered from a brown gravy stain on it.
In addition, forensic experts were also able to retrieve Heaton’s DNA from the stain.
The second attack happened on August 27, 2006.
A 49-year-old woman was unable to get a taxi home and was confronted by Heaton.
He wore a ski mask, and he threatened to slit her throat if she attempted to shout.
He dragged her down an entry in the Mourne Drive area of Warrenpoint, where he then lived.
This time as well as sexually abusing her, he also robbed her of a bracelet after she told him she had no cash.
When arrested in June 2011, Heaton, who has been in custody since then, acknowledged living in both areas in Newry and Warrenpoint.
He had no explanation as to how his DNA was found and recovered from both attacks.
Prosecution QC Philip Mateer said that both victims had been deliberately targeted and the attacks were premeditated.
Defence QC Peter Irvine said that Heaton deserved credit for his guilty pleas because this saved his victims from the stress and trauma of having to give evidence in a public court.
It was, he added, an extremely serious case, but one in which Heaton had now begun to display empathy with his victims.
Newry Crown Court Judge Gemma Loughran told Heaton that the anguish he caused his victims, realising they would be unable to defend themselves from his sex attacks, “can scarcely be imagined”.
The only mitigating factor, said the judge, was his previous good character and his guilty pleas – “albeit very late in the day”.
Heaton pleaded guilty to a total of 11 counts including the attempted rape of his first victim, indecently assaulting and holding both women captive, and assaulting his second victim with intent to rape her whilst also robbing and threatening to kill her.
His total sentence will be 14 years – and he is expected to serve all of it, after the judge ruled that the normal 50-50 remission rule will not apply.
The judge said she would not make any “custody probation order” as part of the sentence.
“The effect of this decision is that the conventional remission release provisions shall not apply to you,” she added.
On his release, he will be subject to conditions including being put on the Sex Offenders’ Register for life, and being required to seek the approval of a “risk manager” about where he lives and who he enters a relationship with for 20 years after his release.
He is also banned from parts of Newry and Warrenpoint.