Ethiopian refugee rapist who ‘roamed UK for victims’ jailed for life

Temesgen Desta (pictured), 32, raped a woman in her apartment in Birmingham in March

A ‘violent and predatory rapist’ has been jailed for life after he roamed the country by train in search of victims, before striking twice in a matter of hours.

Temesgen Desta, 32, raped a woman in her apartment in Birmingham in March, grabbing her by the throat and forcing her onto a bed before binding her hands with a bathrobe cord.

Just eight hours earlier, Desta had attempted to choke and rape another woman in Crosby, Merseyside.

A nationwide manhunt was launched for the Ethiopian refugee after the attacks, as police warned he was travelling up and down the rail network to select his victims.

Desta, who arrived in the UK in 2017, was eventually caught on March 21 as he attempted to board a ferry from western Scotland to Belfast.

The Ethiopian refugee was found guilty of rape, intention to rape and two counts of false imprisonment at Birmingham Crown Court and was today handed a life sentence with a minimum of ten years behind bars.

Judge Melbourne Inman, QC, the Recorder of Birmingham, said: ‘You are a violent predatory rapist. You attacked two women in different cities in this county in about eight hours.’

Describing how both victims felt they were going to be killed, the judge added: ‘These were determined attacks with extreme violence on two women in two different parts of the country within a matter of hours.

‘You have no remorse, you have no insight into your offending. The nature of the attacks are such that a dangerous finding is inevitable.

‘There is no alternative sentence that would provide protection to the public and therefore this court must impose a sentence of life imprisonment.

‘What your position is in relation to this country and your status is not a matter to me.’

The Ethiopian refugee (pictured) was found guilty of rape, intention to rape and two counts of false imprisonment at Birmingham Crown Court

The Ethiopian refugee (pictured) was found guilty of rape, intention to rape and two counts of false imprisonment at Birmingham Crown Court

Desta tied up his terrified victim in Birmingham in the early hours of March 15 after travelling by train from Liverpool, via Stafford, having attempted to rape another woman in Crosby, Merseyside, eight hours earlier.

He forced his way into the woman’s city apartment after working out that she lived alone, grabbed her by the throat and forced her onto a bed, claiming he was carrying a knife.

After his vile attack, he bound her hands with a cord from a bathrobe, tied her legs with a phone cord charger and tried to barricade her door with a chair before escaping.

She managed to break free after 45 minutes and fled to a concierge with her hands still tied.

A victim impact statement read by William Mousley, QC, heard how the businesswoman was forced to live in hotels following the attack.

She said: ‘I couldn’t imagine going to sleep in the same bed and answering the same door.

‘One of the scariest things was when the postman delivered the mail because it involved him pushing it through the gap through the door. It felt like someone was breaking in and it caused me to have severe breakdowns.’

In Crosby, near Liverpool, his first victim, 54, told how she feared she would die when Desta tried to strangle her as she walked in sand dunes.

As he loosened his grip, he told her: ‘I wanted to have sex with you’.

In a court statement, she told how she had been scarred by the attack and was evicted for rent arrears after struggling to work.

She said: ‘My life has been turned upside down. If I look up at the clouds I remember that day looking up at the sky thinking I was going to die.’

Desta, of no fixed address, denied the offences and claimed he was kidnapped and tortured by police.

He said during his trial: ‘This case has been created to cover their illegal actions.

‘I am a lawful refugee in the United Kingdom. I am tortured in a very painful way. I ask to be given fair judgement. I am not a bad person.’

Desta was traced to Scotland after being recognised by port officers and arrested on March 21.

The court heard on Wednesday how he had previously been handed a six-month jail sentence in November 2018 for racially abusing shop security staff in Newport, Wales, while possessing a knife.

He was recalled to prison for breaking the terms of his release on licence.

Representing himself, Desta asked the judge to show mercy when passing sentence, telling him in broken English: ‘I’m not a criminal. I was a business owner and hard-working self employed person in my home country.

‘I’m a lawful refugee in this country and I claimed asylum because of the bad politics and relationship I have with my birth country.

‘I haven’t seen my wife and my family for three years and I really miss them. I was tortured mentally and physically in prison. I’m already punished.’

But Judge Inman said his claims were ‘outlandish’ and that Desta was ‘clearly a danger to women’.

He said: ‘You’ve shown no remorse for these crimes.

‘Your defence was characterised by your refusal to accept evidence against you and led you to make a large number of outlandish allegations against anyone or anything which presented evidence against you in an attempt to explain it away.’

Nick Walton, from West Midlands Police said: ‘These were violent sex attacks which were traumatic and distressing for both women who were unknown to Desta.

‘On both occasions he grabbed them by the throat and his victims would have undoubtedly feared for their lives. Just hours after his attack in Liverpool he travelled to Birmingham and targeted a woman in her apartment.

‘She was raped and then left tied up and unable to move. Without a friend coming to the property not long after her horrific ordeal she could have been left there for hours.’