A WOMAN has told how she thought she was going to die when a man wearing a Halloween mask grabbed her and pulled her into bushes.
Faye Harris, 38, told the court of her absolute terror as her attacker jabbed a knife towards her and ‘jeered’ at her.
The man jumped Faye as she was walking home alone along a footpath in Fareham on November 28. It was still light at around 4.20pm.
Her attacker, Robert Rouse, appeared at Portsmouth Crown Court and was found guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm with the intent of committing a sexual offence and a separate offence of being in possession of a knife.
The jury heard how Rouse, 24, of Wykeham Field, Wickham, pounced on Faye, placing one hand over her mouth and one over her stomach, and pulled her backwards into bushes along a footpath running along Fareham Creek, called Watersmeet.
Faye said: ‘I thought I was going to die and I was screaming at him to get off. I was kicking out at him because my hair was caught. He was making a jeering action towards me. I could see something in his hand. I think I carried on screaming at him as I couldn’t pull my hair out of the thorny bushes.
‘I remember thinking “this is it, I have come unstuck” and that it was going to be bad and thinking I have got to keep on. Eventually I kicked him in the stomach and he ran away.’
During the struggle, Faye ripped her attacker’s mask off, a replica of one used in the film Friday the 13th, which she handed to police.
Rouse, a night shift worker at Wilkinsons, in Fareham, denied the charge, despite his DNA being the only DNA inside the mask.
His DNA was also found inside a pair of blue latex gloves which had been discarded near the scene of the attack.
When police arrested Rouse at his house two days later, they found he had what the prosecution labelled a ‘rapist’s kit’ – a drawstring bag containing items including a black woollen hat and woollen gloves, mobile phone, half a dozen latex gloves, a Stanley knife and one ladies’ stocking.
On his arrest Rouse said ‘it wasn’t me’ and made no comment throughout police interviews.
In court, he said he had found the knife in the road and had intended to hand it in to police.
He said he had worn the mask as fancy dress at work and had left it lying next to a bin in the Gillies a few days later. He said he had worn the latex gloves to build a dam near where the attack took place as he wanted to cross the river to swing on a rope.
His excuses were labelled as ‘ridiculous’ by the prosecution.
Stephen Parish, prosecuting, said: ‘If anybody said this to you outside of court, you would... laugh your socks off.’
Faye, who waived her legal right to anonymity in order to tell her story to The News, wept as the jury returned a guilty verdict.
Rouse will return for sentencing in seven weeks’ time once a report has been completed on his mental health.
NOT THE FIRST TIME THAT OFFENDER HAS TARGETED WOMEN
WHEN the jury returned their guilty verdict, Judge Sarah Munro QC was told about Rouse’s previous convictions.
In 2003, Rouse was found guilty of indecent assault and two counts of battery for three occasions of attacking women in a similar way to his latest attack.
On one occasion in February 2003, he attacked a woman as she walked with her two young children. On another, he pulled his victim to the ground and indecently assaulted her.
At the time, he was ordered to pay compensation to his victims and was put under a two-year supervision order.
Judge Munro said the previous incidents carried the same hallmarks.
She said to the jury: ‘We have heard a bit more now in light of his past. I am sure you will feel better about your decision.’
INCIDENT LEFT VICTIM FAYE ‘TOO SCARED TO GO OUT’
THE horrifying attack has stripped Faye Harris of her confidence.
The 38-year-old mother of two has suffered panic attacks since her terrifying ordeal.
Prior to the attack, she walked everywhere and had been hugely independent.
Prosecution barrister Stephen Parish said: ‘She feels like a prisoner in her own home She has been suffering from night terrors and suffers from flashbacks every day.’
He added: ‘Before the attack she went to boot camps to keep fit; she tried to go again and someone ran past her and she screamed.’
He told the court how her relationships with her two sons had been affected and how she was scared to walk her dog.
After the trial, Faye praised the police for their support and said: ‘Rouse came unstuck with me. I look a lot younger from behind so he must have thought I was young.
‘He certainly picked the wrong person to mess with. I am Security Industry Authority-trained so I know how to handle myself.’
Faye wanted to reassure Rouse’s previous victims that he is going to jail this time.
She also warned women not to wear earphones when out walking, as she had been when Rouse jumped her.
She said: ‘Don’t wear two ear phones, it’s not worth it.’