Conviction for University sex attack after 11 years

A man has been convicted of a sexual attack carried out at the University 11 years after the original incident.

Steven Sellars, 41, pleaded guilty to attempted rape at York County Court last week, after being arrested on the strength of DNA the police had preserved from the scene in the hope of one day catching the man responsible.

On April 23 1996, Sellars grabbed his then 19 year old victim by the throat and dragged her into the wooded area between Windmill Lane and the University Science Park, where he attempted to rape her.

Speaking just days after the attack, the victim told a press conference: “I want this man to be caught, and I don’t want him out there to do it to somebody else. I’m angry he thinks he has got away with it.”

Sellars was arrested after he returned a craft knife to York High School that his son had accidentally taken home from school, and was afraid to return himself. Seeing a man approach the school receptionist with a knife, the police were called and immediately took Sellars into custody.

Although later released without charge, DNA taken by the police matched that of the man wanted for 1996 sexual assault case.

It has also since been discovered that Sellars had previous convictions for rape in South Yorkshire in 1989, and in Leeds in 1993. A police search of his personal computer revealed searches for “rape fantasy” and similar words.

Judge Stephen Ashurst, who presided over the hearing, said: “The information I have so far reveals a very disturbing picture and the court is going to have to give extremely careful consideration to the risk to the general public in this particular case.”

“It may well have come as a very considerable relief to a number of people to hear you enter your guilty plea to this charge today,” he added on hearing Sellars’ response.

Speaking in his defence, Sellars’ barrister Nicholas Johnson said he had turned his life around since 1996, and is now married with children.

The maximum sentence for attempted rape is a life sentence.

The conviction comes just over a year after University student Clive Manyou was found guilty of raping a fellow student in June, 2006. Manyou, 36, was a mature student reading English and Related literature at the time of his conviction.

As with Sellars, Manyou too had a history of convictions for sexual assault. Before coming to university, the former York student was convicted of assualting two girls whilst in his teens. Despite a defence relying heavily on his role as a father and husband, Manyou was jailed for six years.

Speaking after the conviction the female student said: “I would like to urge any other victims of rape or sexual assault to be strong and always come forward and report to the police – doing this is the only way that we will come closer to stopping rape altogether”.

One comment

  1. I remember this nasty incident. It was about a month after I’d returned to York after time off. Very glad we have a result after all these years. Makes me think about the value of the DNA database and compulsory swabbing of arrestees that I used to be so against.

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