IT was a three month investigation – which ended thanks to a chilling twist of fate.
On Saturday, the day of his 19th birthday, “dangerous” sex attacker Khi Grey started an eight year sentence behind bars.
Yet between June last year – when Grey attacked two schoolgirls in terrifying separate incidents on Blackpool’s Boundary Park – and September, when he was finally caught, police admit they were anxious.
Grey was a seemingly normal student at Blackpool Sixth Form College.
But within a fortnight, he tried to push a 15-year-old girl into bushes – only letting her go when she screamed “at the top of her voice” – before attacking a second 15-year-old two weeks later, pulling her into bushes and trying to rape her.
That attack only ended when the victim spotted a passer-by and screamed, spooking Grey into running off.
Police said they had no doubt Grey, who was from a “stable family background” and had never been in trouble or come to the police’s attention before, was capable of offending again.
Both incidents – the first on June 1 and the second on June 14 – happened in an alleyway leading to Grange Park, next to the bowling green, off Garstang Road.
As the two victims were left traumatised by their ordeals, a major investigation swung into action.
Police appealed for any information through the media, and released a computer generated image of the attacker in a bid to jog the memory of anyone who might have seen him.
Yet it was a lucky break for officers which eventually led to him being tracked down – as the second of his victims came face to face with him again.
In early September, the teen was walking to school when she spotted Grey on a path very close to where she had been attacked.
Deeply upset, she reported the sighting straight to police.
“From that (sighting) we got a description and got some CCTV of the person who fit that description,” said Det Con Chris Naidu, one of the detectives involved in the case.
“We deployed officers there the next day and saw Khi Grey, who fitted the description. He was arrested.
“We always knew there was the potential for him to re-offend so we were very anxious to arrest him. We were relieved that we had caught the right man.”
Preston Crown Court heard Grey had been in the park last summer on his way to college.
In the second incident he carried out two offences on his victim.
Peter Horgan, prosecuting, said: “Without warning the defendant grabbed the girl, placed one hand on her forehead and the other hand on her mouth and pulled her away into the bushes.
“As he did this he asked her her name and she told him, and he told her not to be scared, he was not going to hurt her.
“She describes herself as being in shock, trying to close her eyes and pretend it was not happening. She estimates the assault went on for 30 seconds.”
Grey exposed himself and attempted to rape the girl, the court heard. He was only spooked when his victim screamed after spotting a man walking by.
Grey, of Stuart Place, Grange Park, had pleaded guilty to a serious sexual assault charge and attempted rape regarding one of the girls, plus a charge of committing an offence with intent to commit a sexual offence, regarding the other girl.
Both of the girls had been in school uniform at the time of the attacks, the court heard.
Mark Stephenson, defending, said the teenager, who had no previous convictions, had behaved in an appalling and terrible manner.
In the weeks beforehand, he had watched extreme pornography and had uncontrollable sexual urges.
It was felt the risk of the defendant re-offending would be reduced through him taking part in programmes while serving his sentence.
Grey was given a sentence of four years and eight months custody for one of the incidents, plus another three years and four months consecutive for the other.
He will be on the sex offenders register indefinitely and subject to a sexual offences prevention order.
Sentencing, Judge Michael Byrne said the second incident in particular was “serious, persistent, dangerous and terrifying for his victim.
“I am satisfied that, but for this passing man, it is clear the defendant would have continued his sexual attack and perpetrated further violence upon his victim.”
Yet, for his victims, the recovery continues.
Impact statements read in court show how the first victim still suffers nightmares and the second has refused to go anywhere on her own since the attack.
Det Con Naidu added: “The victims were traumatised by the attacks.
“It has affected them and it is something they will take a long time to get over.
“We are pleased with the sentence and we think it reflects the seriousness of the attacks on his victims. I have spoken to the parents and, again, they are very pleased with the sentence.
“At least he cannot commit any further offences and the public are safe from him.”