A hero interrupted a rapist's brutal attack by putting him in a chokehold and punching him in the face.

Steven Lequesne, 23, "preyed" on a lone vulnerable woman who had been on a night out in Southport.

Harrowing CCTV footage showed the victim kicking Lequesne and trying to fight him off as he raped her in bushes.

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But when passer-by Christopher Fletcher heard the woman screaming "no", a judge said he rushed to stop the "brutal and terrifying attack".

Recorder Matthew Corbett-Jones said: "It was only when a brave member of the public came to her rescue that her ordeal came to an end.

"Christopher Fletcher showed all the qualities of a brave, decent, upstanding member of the community in tackling you and summoning the police.

"Your actions that night show to me you are the opportunistic and highly predatory individual that you clearly are."

Liverpool Crown Court heard Lequesne, of no fixed address but formerly of Tuebrook, raped his victim near Napthens Solicitors, on Hoghton Street, this summer.

Robert Wyn Jones, prosecuting, said the victim had been drinking at the Metropole Hotel in Portland Street earlier that night.

The woman and Lequesne spent some time there together after the pub shut, before walking through Southport train station after 1am.

Mr Wyn Jones said: "She is clearly drunk. She doesn't have any shoes on and she is stumbling."

He played a CCTV clip in court that showed an "altercation" between them and her trying to get away.

The prosecutor said: "She runs off to the left and he pursues her."

He said during a coming together "she is fighting him off and is pulled backwards to the ground".

She got up and Napthens Solicitors' CCTV cameras captured him attacking her in the bushes of a car park.

Mr Wyn Jones did not play this part of the footage and said Lequesne "examined her" while using the light from his mobile phone.

She pushed him away, but fell, as "she lay on the ground, kicking out at him".

A police car drove past and Lequesne "ducked down behind the bushes", before the woman repeatedly kicked at him, but he pinned her down and raped her.

Mr Wyn Jones said Mr Fletcher walked past, saw Lequesne raping the woman while she was screaming "no", so pulled Lequesne away.

The prosecutor said: "Mr Fletcher takes hold of the defendant around the neck in a chokehold."

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He said the witness took Lequesne to the ground, before he called police and held him until officers arrived.

Police found the victim "extremely distressed" nearby.

Lequesne denied rape when interviewed, but was linked to the attack by DNA evidence and today admitted the charge.

Mr Wyn Jones said the victim is now afraid to go outside and is "constantly looking over her shoulder".

The woman went back to work but broke down and has not gone back since, so is now on Universal Credit.

Mr Wyn Jones said: "She has a much more limited group of friends she says now because she finds socialising and trusting people very difficult."

Lequesne has 15 previous convictions for 21 offences, including harassment in 2018 and two offences of outraging public decency in 2020.

Nicola Daley, defending, said he had mental health issues and urged the court not to pass an extended jail sentence.

She said the court "could and would perhaps find" that he met the criteria of a "dangerous" offender, as defined in law.

However, she asked the judge to consider what risk Lequesne will pose when released, given his young age, the work that could be done with him in prison and the fact he admitted the offence.

Ms Daley said he was repeatedly detained under the Mental Health Act up until 2020 and "has made a series of attempts to take his own life".

She said: "Perhaps he received some summary justice when he was punched to the face and admitted to hospital after the offence.

Pictured is Liverpool Crown Court

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"By pleading guilty and not prolonging these matters, that shows his remorse."

Recorder Corbett-Jones said Lequesne followed the victim, before he used his torch to "leer" at her, then raped her.

He told Lequesne: "It's plain to see you had seized this opportunity when she was alone and vulnerable to prey on her."

He added: "This was a brutal and terrifying attack on a defenceless woman, in order for you to satisfy your desire for sexual gratification, which I have no doubt will cast a shadow across the rest of her life."

Referring to a pre-sentence report, he told Lequesne: "You have not shown any genuine regret for your actions and the author of the report makes clear the insight that you have into the harm you have caused is non-existent.

"You're regarded as being in effect devoid of emotion."

Steven aka Stephen Lequesne, 23, of no fixed address
Steven aka Stephen Lequesne, 23, of no fixed address

He said Lequesne was said to have a "very high likelihood of reoffending", adding: "There is no evidence your mental health played any part in this offending and you clearly knew what you were doing."

Recorder Corbett-Jones found Lequesne was "dangerous" and jailed him for 10 and a half years, with an extended four and a half years on licence.

This type of sentence means Lequesne must serve at least two thirds of the custodial term - seven years - behind bars.

He will only be released before the end of the sentence if the Parole Board no longer considers him to be a risk.

Lequesne must also sign on the Sex Offenders Register for life.

Recorder Corbett-Jones said he had wanted to commend the brave behaviour of Mr Fletcher and "pay tribute to him".

The judge said he would now put him forward for formal recognition.

Anyone with information about or who wants to report a sexual offence allegation can call police on 101, where you will be spoken to by specially trained officers, or you can pass information to Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

Support for victims is also available from the registered charity the Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre Cheshire and Merseyside, who can be contacted on 01925 221 546 or 0330 363 0063, or Rape and Sexual Assault Merseyside (RASA) on 0151 558 1801.

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