Man jailed for sex attack on pensioner after escaping secure unit

Gary Petty has been jailed for nine years. Picture: NORFOLK POLICE

Gary Petty has been jailed for nine years. Picture: NORFOLK POLICE - Credit: Norfolk Police

A convicted sex offender escaped from a secure unit and broke into the home of a frail pensioner whom he attacked and sexually assaulted, a court heard.

Gary Petty, 40, was at the time subject to an indefinite hospital order for the attempted rape of a 78-year-old woman, but gave staff the slip at Lombard House, Little Ellingham, when allowed outside for a cigarette.

Following the hearing, a spokesman for Partnerships in Care, which operates Lombard House, said the case was taken 'extremely seriously' and a review had led to safety improvements.

Jude Durr, prosecuting at Norwich Crown Court, said Petty was supposed to be kept under constant watch but managed to escape without staff realising he was even missing.

Mr Durr said Petty threatened the victim and pulled her through to a bedroom, where he sexually assaulted her.

He said Petty fled when he realised the victim was bleeding from an injury he caused, as he did not want to be linked forensically to the scene.

He returned to the unit, where he washed his clothing to try to avoid detection. The victim raised the alarm and Petty was later arrested.

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Petty admitted causing grievous bodily harm and sexually assaulting the victim in October 2015.

The court heard Petty was made subject to a hospital order at Exeter Crown Court in June 2002 for the attempted rape of a 78-year-old woman, and burglary, which was strikingly similar to his latest offence.

Jailing him for nine years and placing him on the sex offender's register for life, Judge Stephen Holt said it had been a 'catastrophic failure' by Lombard House in allowing him to escape.

Michael Clare, for Petty, said he was no longer subject to any hospital order and added: 'He would rather be in prison. He has accepted his guilt and expresses remorse.'

Det Sgt Robin Windsor-Waite, of Norfolk police, said: 'Such a stranger attack is extremely rare in Norfolk, but we hope such a sentence will help to reassure victims that we will always investigate any allegations of sexual abuse thoroughly and bring offenders to justice.'