October 2018

Teenage rapist named for first time as he’s jailed for 12 years after brutal attack

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The 17-year-old sexually assaulted, raped, headbutted and threatened to kill his young victim

A teenager who carried out a brutal and violent rape and physical attack on a young woman is starting a long spell behind bars.

Meron Zerezeghi, 17, can be named for the first time after an application by Teesside Live to lift reporting restrictions was granted by a judge.

Zerezeghi held his head in his hands on a video link from Wetherby prison as he was told he will be sentenced to 12 years in custody.

The defendant, originally from Eritrea in Africa, was accused of sexually assaulting, raping, beating, headbutting, strangling and threatening to kill a woman in a Thornaby house.

The Crown said he launched a “barrage of violence” after the young woman tried to escape him.

Then he wrote her letters trying to persuade her to alter her evidence and exonerate him.

After a week-long trial, a jury found him guilty on all five charges he faced at Teesside Crown Court.

They convicted him of rape, causing grievous bodily harm with intent, sexual assault, making a threat to kill and perverting the course of justice.

Sentencing him, Judge Simon Bourne-Arton QC the Recorder of Middlesbrough said: “You have shown not one jot of remorse for your victim.

“Throughout you have only been concerned for yourself.

“It’s quite clear to me that you wanted to have sex with her. She did not. And yet to the jury you claimed that she wanted sex and you were reluctant. That was a dreadful lie.”

The judge described the incident as “the most dreadful, dreadful attack,” adding: “You threatened her with a knife, you threatened to kill her with that knife. She was terrified, you assaulted her by headbutting her and whilst on the ground kicking her.

“It was quite clear to me and the jury that you caused those injuries.”

When he committed the offences on March 17, Zerezeghi made unwanted sexual advances towards the girl in the bedroom of a Thornaby house, then attacked and raped her.

She told police he pulled a knife from his sock and threatened her with the knife and a bottle of wine.

Prosecutor David Lamb said he repeatedly punched her, grabbed her neck, dragged, headbutted and strangled her, held a knife to her throat, pinned her to the floor, ripped her clothing, sexually assaulted and raped her.

The teenager was arrested after the woman was heard screaming, which sounded to a witness “like she was being murdered”.

A victim statement, read by Mr Lamb on Wednesday said: “The defendant took something away from me that I feel I will never be able to get back.

“That thing I refer to is my life.”

The victim watched the sentence being passed via a video link.

The court heard in mitigation that Zerezeghi had an unstable upbringing and had not had much support in the UK from his family who live in his home country.

His behaviour in custody was said to be that of “a model prisoner”.

The court was also told that he was 16 at the time of the offence.

Sentencing him, the judge said that he had taken Zerezeghi’s age into account and said that his sentence would be cut from that which would be given to an adult.

He ordered that Zerezeghi be jailed for 12 years, put on the sex offenders register and made a restraining order preventing him from contacting the victim for life.