Man jailed after admitting to attempting to kidnap teenage girl in Chalford last summer
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A man who admitted to attempting to kidnap a 13-year-old girl while she was out jogging in Stroud last summer has been jailed.
Robert Hall, aged 37 and formerly of Leonard Stanley, had grabbed the girl from behind in broad daylight, however she managed to break free and ran to safety.
Hall fled the scene after the attack on a path near to Three Groves Wood in Chalford, but following an extensive police investigation he was arrested within days and has been behind bars ever since.
After the attack a significant amount of enquiries took place including house to house, leaflet drops, public appeals for information and a CCTV trawl which proved crucial.
At the time of the incident on 2 June Hall had been wearing clothing which was out of place for the hot weather that day – a hooded top, jogging bottoms and blue latex gloves.
A number of witnesses came forward with information to assist the investigation, including the fact that the offender had used a silver hatchback.
Hours of CCTV footage were reviewed by detectives who identified this car leaving the scene shortly after the attack. This car was linked to Hall.
Hall was identified and arrested three days later on 5 June, charged the following day and remanded in custody.
At Gloucester Crown Court today, Monday 1 March, he was sentenced to five years and nine months in prison, and was told he would be on an extended licence of four years after the judge said he posed a serious risk of harm to the public.
Hall, who was a delivery driver, had previously pleaded guilty to attempt kidnap at a hearing last year.
At a Newton hearing today to establish whether there was planning involved and whether Hall intended to commit an offence, he gave evidence and said he had heard voices in his head which told him to grab the girl.
He told the court he had been in a low mood on the day of the attack and that he had been in the area that day to collect his thoughts.
The court was told however how multiple witnesses saw Hall in the location at numerous times in the days leading up to the incident, in what was described as him looking for “potential victims”.
Witnesses also described seeing him sprint after a 19-year-old girl around an hour before the incident, however he did not catch up to her.
Recorder James Waddington QC rejected Hall’s explanation and said he did not accept his lies or “ridiculous story”.
He said Hall’s motive was to commit a serious offence which was either sexual or violent in nature and he posed a serious risk of harm to the public.
The investigation to identify and arrest Hall, as well as collating evidence which led to a guilty plea, was led by senior investigating officer Detective Inspector Adam Stacey from Gloucestershire Constabulary.
He said: "This was a horrific ordeal for the victim. The courage she has shown since that day has been remarkable and we've been in awe at how brave she has been.
"These types of attacks are extremely rare and in my 23 years in policing I have only seen a very small number of these.
"In this case it was a pre-planned and premeditated attack where this young girl was preyed upon but thankfully managed to escape and run to safety at a nearby house.
"The impact this has on a victim is unimaginable, and it also impacts the family and causes a huge amount of fear within the local community too.
"I would like to thank the victim for the immense strength she has shown and her family who have worked alongside us throughout.
"There was a significant team effort from the moment the crime was reported, with teams from across the Constabulary taking part in a large amount of enquiries in quick-time in order to arrest Hall and bring him to justice.
"I would also like to thank to my colleagues across the Constabulary, including the deputy senior investigating officer Detective Sergeant Jon Youdan and officer in the case Detective Constable Julie Williams, and to all those in the local community who shared our appeals for help and came forward with vital information."
Following the sentence hearing the victim, now aged 14, has spoken of the ordeal she faced and how she is now on the road to recovery following support and counselling.
She said: "It was hard to convince myself that it was actually real. I thought it was still a dream, it's like a really vivid dream and I couldn't get myself out of it and I couldn't convince myself. When I saw all these police cars and all these police men and women, I didn't think it was all for me.
“I haven't been able to live my life as a 14-year-old that I wanted to. I couldn’t even go on a walk with one friend but at the same time you have to keep going, and you have to keep pushing and you can't give up because if you give up that means that you're letting them win and them take over your life when that’s not how it should be. It should be the other way around."
The victim's mother has said she does not want the actions of this person to define her daughter, or for others to live in fear.
She said: "This has had a profound effect on my daughter. She battles through to live life absolutely normal.
"We are in this lovely, happy community, and so this was one of those moments where your life just shudders to an absolute halt.
"Everything around you just drops away and suddenly you are there in this world where nothing else matters and you just want to get to your child and make sure they’re ok.
"There were so many people out on that warm day - she must have been on her own for just a split-second. So it was absolute disbelief.
"The police seemed to have gathered evidence really quickly, putting every piece of the jigsaw in place really quickly. We couldn’t believe how quickly this had happened.
"When they said they had arrested him obviously the relief was huge. The fact that they had him, they had the right man, and he was somewhere safe and couldn’t do it again to anyone else was a hugely positive feeling.
"As we go on I want to always be reassuring, because I want her and everyone who lives in Chalford and the surrounding area not to live in fear.
"We got unlucky, she was really unlucky, but that can’t define her, it can’t define the village and all the lovely kids that continue to grow up in that village.
"I don’t want it to be a big black cloud over us and for them not to be able to go for a walk with their dog or for a run. I don’t want anyone to live in fear because of this one person, because of what this one person did, because it is so rare."