Abbeymead man sentenced to prison after series of violent attacks on vulnerable women
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A man from Abbeymead, Gloucester has been sentenced to a total of five years and four months years in prison this week after attacks on two vulnerable women and another woman and girl all at night.
Benjamin John Wilkinson, 29 and of Minster Gardens in Abbeymead, Gloucester received the sentence at Gloucester Crown Court earlier this week (Wednesday 21 July).
Wilkinson previously pleaded guilty to attempted grievous bodily harm with intent, possession of an offensive weapon, namely a hammer, sexual assault, attempted sexual assault, dangerous driving and actual bodily harm.
He must serve a minimum of two thirds of his sentence and will also be added to the sex offenders register for life.
The conviction relates to a number of incidents that happened between July and October last year (2020) where Wilkinson violently targeted vulnerable women and a girl in Cheltenham and Gloucester.
In the first incident on the evening of 20 July Wilkinson picked up a vulnerable woman in his work van before driving her to a car park on Barton Street. He told the woman he was getting out of the van to get cash from an ATM but instead went to the back of the vehicle to retrieve a hammer. As he got back in the van he struck the woman on the forehead. He went to hit her again but she held him off before fleeing the van and running to Barton Street police station. She suffered a lump to the head.
On 14 September, while driving in Cheltenham in his works van he steered to the other side of the road and grabbed the back of a woman's neck as she walked along the pavement. She ducked and managed to escape him as he continued to drive on.
On that same day in Cheltenham Wilkinson attempted to grab a school girl by the neck as she was walking home with friends but she managed to run and hide in a nearby alleyway as Wilkinson continued to drive around the area.
The following month, at around 2am on 2 October, Wilkinson picked up a vulnerable woman in his works van and drove her around for over 30 minutes, drink driving. Wilkinson claimed they were at his home address and as the victim got out of the van he attacked her, hitting her on the head. The victim fled and hid underneath a nearby parked car for 20 minutes as Wilkinson looked for her. She then ran to a house, asking for help, and the homeowners called police.
Wilkinson was identified by officers as a suspect and arrested on 6 October. He was charged the following day and remanded in custody, where he has remained since.
As part of the Constabulary investigation, specialist officers, with support from the National Crime Agency's Serious Crime Analysis Section, conducted historical incident research, as well as CCTV reviews to find and identify Wilkinson.
Many specialist policing techniques were deployed as part of the operation including video identification procedures and reviews of data from vehicle tracking.
Officers also interviewed a number of witnesses and conducted house-to-house enquiries following Wilkinson's attacks and the strength and detail of the evidence led to an early guilty plea, which meant the victims did not have to attend court for a trial.
A Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) was also applied by the judge to prevent further offending in the future.
Officer In Charge (OIC) of the case, Detective Constable Amy-Victoria Bennett, from the Local Policing Investigation Hub, said: “Today’s sentence is a strong message to those who intend to prey upon vulnerable women and girls in our society.
“I would like to thank all the women involved in this case, who showed enormous bravery in coming forward to share their traumatic experiences. Their willingness to support a prosecution has contributed hugely to the successful outcome we have seen today.
“This was an in-depth and complex investigation into a dangerous and predatory offender and demonstrates our commitment to bringing to justice those whose sole intent is to cause harm and fear.
“We want to reassure people that, despite this case, Gloucestershire is a safe and pleasant county to live in and our investigators will work closely with the public to protect people.”
A statement has also been issued by the Nelson Trust, a charity that provides support for vulnerable members of the community and who worked with police and two of Wilkinson's victims.
They said: "The Nelson Trust Women's Centre provides a women-only space where a wide range of support needs can be addressed in a safe and supportive environment.
"The Nelson Trust works in partnership with the police, with strong links to a dedicated and specialist police liaison officer within Gloucestershire Constabulary. This partnership emphasises maximising safety, increasing trust and confidence in policing and encouraging women to report crimes and abuse.
"By building a strong relationship over many years to safeguard women who are vulnerable to risks of violence and serious harm, this case is an example where effective systems of partnership working and communication built up between The Nelson Trust Women’s Centre and Gloucestershire Constabulary, has earnt the trust of women accessing these services to come forward and report serious crimes.
“Our partnership working has increased women’s confidence to empower them to report incidents to the police, to have their voice heard and believed, and offers a model through which violence and abuse can be reported early and more perpetrators may be stopped in their tracks."