BRAVE cleaners were today praised after they helped save a child during a horrific sex attack in a public toilet.
Michael Nelson subjected the three-year-old boy to a serious sexual assault after dragging him in to a disabled toilet in Layton.
And the sickening attack was only halted after two cleaners heard the boy’s cries and stepped in – saving the youngster and barricading Nelson in the toilet until police arrived.
The 20-year-old, from Church Street, Blackpool, has now been locked up for nine years for the “horrendous” assault.
Det Insp Tony Baxter, from the resort’s public protection unit, said: “It was an absolutely horrific attack.
“It is without doubt the cleaners have saved this lad from a more serious attack.
“They have saved him from potentially even more torture and they are to be commended for their actions and their quick-thinking in protecting the young lad.”
Nelson had taken the boy into the disabled toilet in Layton sguare after asking to use it on July 23 last year, but the cleaners quickly realised something was wrong and managed to stop the attack from going any further.
Ross Longbottom, director of Danfro, the company which employs the cleaners, said: “It was a shocking thing for our staff to find. It is disgusting but the outcome has been justified.
“They might have put themselves in a precarious position but they went that extra mile.
“They are the eyes and ears of the community and will report anything they see back to our supervisors. Our staff are brilliant and they take real pride in their jobs.”
Nelson pleaded guilty to rape, and Det Insp Baxter said if it had not been for the cleaners’ actions police may never have known about the shocking crime.
He added: “The lad himself was very brave and hopefully he is too young for it to have any lasting effect on him.
“It was a harrowing experience and without these two people we would absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, not have known about it.
“The reality is who knows how long this sort of thing could have gone on for.”
The pair’s actions were also praised by Judge Andrew Woolman at Preston Crown Court yesterday, who added: “They probably saved the child from something worse.”
Although Nelson does have previous convictions, the court heard there was nothing similar on his record and defence barrister Chris Hudson said Nelson had been “foolish” rather than “evil” that day.
Mr Hudson said: “There is no suggestion he would do it again. He has had a very significant and painful lesson.
“He needs help and he is prepared to receive it. He has never previously received any form of custodial sentence.
“He was bored at the time and had taken cannabis, that is no excuse.
“What happened was crass stupidity and experimentation.
“It was a one-off.”
Judge Woolman said he accepted Nelson had shown regret and a determination not to offend again, but that as things stood both the probation service and a psychiatrist had agreed he was a danger to the public.
As well as being jailed for nine years, Nelson will then spend three years on extended licence, be on the Sex Offenders Register indefinitely and was banned from working with children.