Survivor feels nervous out alone after Rising Sun Country Park 'animal' attacker's sexual assault

A sexual assault survivor has described her attacker as an "animal" as he was sentenced to 14 years and nine months behind bars.

Alan Rothwell, 34, was jailed for sexual assault, attempted rape, kidnap and robbery over the broad daylight attack at a North Tyneside country park.

He will serve nearly nine years in prison over the Rising Sun Country Park assault, before being put on licence.

The prosecution told the court Rothwell had grabbed the woman from behind and she "hit with significant force", as he held her so tight "she couldn't breathe".

The prosecutor added, she "tried to fight him off, kicking out, scratching him and trying to nip him", but he was too strong.

The court heard his DNA was found under the woman's finger nails and on a pair of discarded latex gloves found at the scene.

CCTV captures Rothwell on the day before the attack. Credit: Northumbria Police

In the victim statement, read out in court by Judge Robert Spragg, the 63-year-old woman said: "To be attacked, robbed, and sexually assaulted by a person who had clearly set out that day to harm someone was terrifying and humiliating.

“I can't refer to this person as a man, as he behaved like an animal.

"I know this type of attack is rare and that I was very unlucky that day to come across this person.

"I have recovered physically, but emotionally I now feel vulnerable and nervous when out alone."

When passing his sentence, the judge said: "This was an appalling attack on a woman enjoying a walk in broad daylight in a country park, where she should be perfectly safe.

Rising Sun Country Park Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

"It was absolutely terrifying for her and any woman's worst nightmare. She showed considerable bravery in trying to fight you off and refusing your demands and bringing you to justice."

Northumbria Police said they carried out extensive searches of the 400 acre stretch of land, where the court heard, Rothwell sexually assaulted the woman, attempted to rape her and stole her phone and £5.

With more than 100 responses from the public within the first 24 hours of the investigation, the police trawled CCTV and located Rothwell’s movements in the days leading up to the attack.

Police search Rising Sun Park following the attack. Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

Detective Chief Inspector Shelley Hudson said: "She was out on a nice, sunny day, getting some exercise. It's absolutely traumatic and disgusting what's happened to this lady.

"He's gone out with the intention of attacking somebody in broad daylight. He hasn't given any kind of reason or excuse or any information about why he committed this crime."

Rothwell's defence said he had little recollection of what happened as he was intoxicated by alcohol and drugs at the time.

His barrister said: "The most significant piece of mitigation is his guilty plea. His shame is substantial and he told the probation officer he was disgusted. There are significant levels of victim empathy and understanding."

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know...