How I caught a rapist

John Thompson was praised by a judge for his role in helping catch and convict a rapist who attacked a man on the seafront, below, Peter Sturdy.
John Thompson was praised by a judge for his role in helping catch and convict a rapist who attacked a man on the seafront, below, Peter Sturdy.
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Vile Peter Sturdy, 59, would have walked free if it were not for the quick thinking and brave actions of Blackpool hotelier John Thompson, police said.

Mr Thompson, a former military police officer, was walking close to the seafront at Middle Walk, North Shore, on the evening of August 11, 2013, when he saw a man being raped on a bench.

Peter Sturdy, 59, was jailed for five years for rape.

Peter Sturdy, 59, was jailed for five years for rape.

After calling police from the nearby Hilton Hotel, he helped to tackle Sturdy while an officer chased after another man who had run off.

Speaking to The Gazette after he was handed an award by a judge at Preston Crown Court, Mr Thompson said: “I saw what I thought was a couple having sex on a bench and there was a chap sitting at the end of the bench,

“As I walked past I could see the lad was unconscious and he was being raped.

“There are some animals around. It was horrible – really shocking.

“I just thought I’ve got to get help and get the police there.”

Mr Thompson, who spent three years as a military police officer in the early 1970s, worked as a police officer in Glasgow before heading down south where he found a job as a store detective.

He retired to Blackpool three years ago where he runs a seafront hotel and was on his way to visit a friend on Derby Road when he witnessed the rape.

He raised the alarm at the nearby Hilton, where he called police at around 10.50pm and waited for them to arrive.

He said: “As we ran down, one of them ran off.

“The police officer pulled Sturdy off the victim and left him in my custody while he went after the other one.

“Sturdy was trying to get away and swearing at me. My military training kicked in at that point.

“I had hold of him and I put him in an arm lock and held him against a wall.”

As the only eye witness to the crime, since the 26-year-old victim has no recollection of the attack, police said it would have been impossible to prosecute Sturdy were it not for his actions.

Instead, Mr Thompson said, the jury had returned from its deliberations within 20 minutes to deliver a unanimous verdict at Preston Crown Court.

“He (Sturdy) is obviously a danger to young lads,” added Mr Thompson.

“If I had walked along and seen two people having consensual sex, I would have walked away embarrassed and carried on.

“But it was obvious he (the victim) was unconscious and some things you can’t turn a blind eye to. Something like that, you can’t walk past and let someone get away with it.

“Hopefully this will teach them you can’t go around having sex with people who have no control over what they are doing and just get away with it.”

Det Con Chris Walsh, who led the investigation, said: “We wholly believe that without the intervention made by John Thompson during this horrendous sexual attack, and his swift action in contacting the police, we would not have identified the offender and

secured a conviction.

“Mr Thompson remained at the scene of the incident awaiting police attendance and gave evidence as part of the trial.

“His actions on the day and subsequent conduct throughout the court proceedings were outstanding and have now also been recognised with a police commendation. We thank him for his help in this case.”

The certificate to be presented to him, on behalf of the divisional commander, reads: “In recognition of the outstanding conduct you demonstrated after you witnessed a horrendous sexual attack on an unconscious male.

“Your actions on August 11, 2013, have no doubt secured a conviction, as the aggrieved has no recollection of the incident and so the offender would never have been identified and brought to justice.”

Former kitchen porter Sturdy, of Dickson Road, was jailed for five years and ordered to sign the Sex Offender’s Register for life by a judge at Preston Crown Court on January 5.

He was sentenced to five years each for two counts of rape, to run concurrently, and another five years, also to run concurrently, for a charge of sexual assault.