Predatory rapist who 'stroked victim's face' after sickening attack jailed for life

Zsolt Suhaj, 26, of Barkerhouse Road, Nelson was handed a life sentence with a minimum term of 11 years  PIC: Lancs Police
Zsolt Suhaj, 26, of Barkerhouse Road, Nelson was handed a life sentence with a minimum term of 11 years PIC: Lancs Police

A man who prowled the streets of East Lancashire has been jailed for the rape of a woman after climbing through a window into her home last October.

Zsolt Suhaj, 26, of Barkerhouse Road, Nelson was handed a life sentence with a minimum term of 11 years on Thursday April, 27 after previously being found guilty of the attack along with a number of trespasses with intent to commit theft and sexual offences against women in Nelson and Barrowford over a four month period between May and August 2016.

During each of the crimes, Suhaj accessed the victim’s homes through insecure windows and doors during the early hours of the morning. In most of the cases, he went into their bedrooms with the intent of subjecting them to sexual offences.

His most recent and serious crime happened on Sunday October 9 when he climbed through the window of a 66-year-old woman’s house on Talbot Street in Colne at around 4.15am.

The victim had just finished a cup of tea in her kitchen and when she returned to her bedroom – which was in complete darkness - to go back to sleep, she was grabbed around the mouth and told not to scream. Suhaj then forced himself on top of her, pinning her down on her bed and tried to remove some of her clothing.

He then forced her to perform a sexual act on him. The victim pushed him away, ran into another room and turned on a light. Suhaj then tried to get out of the front door but it was locked.

He apologised to the woman, asking her not to tell the police. She opened the door and as Suhaj left, he stroked her face and again asked her not to tell the police.

A small knife belonging to Suhaj was found next to the victim’s bed.

DCI Gary Brooks from Lancashire’s Force Major Investigation Team said: “I am pleased with today’s result given the seriousness and sinister nature of Suhaj’s crimes.

“There is no doubt in my mind that he is a dangerous sexual predator whose behaviour escalated over the period of just few months, culminating in the rape of an innocent woman who should have been safe in her own home.

“Before that, he let himself into the homes of other women intent on sexually assaulting them for his own sickening gratification.”

Suhaj, originally from Hungary, had only been in Nelson since January 2016 having previously lived in Toronto, Canada where he was convicted of similar offences in 2012.

On Tuesday 10 May 2016 at approximately 2am, Suhaj committed his first offence in East Lancashire when he gained access to a property on Rosser Court, Nelson and sexually assaulted a 69 year old woman whilst she was asleep in bed.

When she tried to push him away, he has put his finger to his lips in a ‘shushing’ gesture and then left as she continued to scream.

The next incident occurred at around 2am on Wednesday 13 July at a house on Hibson Road in Nelson. The male occupant heard a thud noise and went to check the rooms inside to see where it was coming from. When he reached his bedroom, he saw Zsolt stood over his 22 year old partner, watching her as she slept.

The man has shouted at Suhaj to leave and threw his mobile phone at him. He climbed out of the bedroom window and made off.

Suhaj struck a third time at a house on Hawthorne Grove in Barrowford on Saturday 23 July. At around 5.30am a woman, 70, turned over in bed and awoke to find Suhaj staring at her. She asked him to identify himself but couldn’t hear what he said in response. She then told him to get out as she was going to call the police and he ran off out of the property.

Weeks later at around 3am on Sunday 14 August, a 55 year old woman saw Suhaj trying to gain entry through her patio doors. She called her husband and he then ran off.

A fifth incident happened on Monday 22 August on Marsden Crescent, Nelson at around 5.30am when a woman, 57, fell asleep on her sofa. She woke up to find Suhaj stood in a doorway staring at her. She told him to leave and he turned and walked out.

Three days later Suhaj got into a woman’s house on Regent Street, Nelson at 6am. As she has switched her bedroom light on after hearing a noise, she saw Suhaj going through her drawers. On confronting him, he then ran off.

Suhaj was initially traced in relation to the rape in Colne in October after detectives released CCTV images and spoke to local businesses to see if they recognised the man in the pictures. Staff at a local takeaway recognised him and he was subsequently arrested.

When looking into the other offences, officers noticed similarities in the offender’s description provided by the victims and the incidents. A footwear impression linked him to the Regent Street offence whilst fingerprints connected him to the Marsden Crescent incident and so he was produced from Preston Prison in November where he was on remand for the Colne rape.

When being interviewed, Zsolt admitted to being at the scene of the crimes but said he was there to steal money and gold for drugs and food.

DCI Gary Brooks added: “Suhaj has shown no regards or remorse towards his victims, forcing them through the ordeal of a trial where they had to relive what happened to them.

“I would like to commend them, in particular the woman who was subjected to a serious sexual assault, for showing extreme courage in coming forward and giving evidence.

“I hope that now Suhaj is behind bars they will now be able to move forward with their lives.”