A town pastor described as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” has been found guilty of a vicious unprovoked attack on a woman walking home in Brighton last summer.
This is the third such attack Stephen Jay, 58, from Ipswich has been accused of – but the first for which he has been convicted.
The court heard that the 26-year-old woman had seen Jay ducking behind cars as if trying to hide as she walked up Gerard Street at 3am on Sunday 14 August last year.
She confronted him and asked why he was following her. She crossed Gerard Street on to the nearside pavement and was walking towards Ditchling Rise.
Jay then hit her in the face several times. A witness saw the attacker’s hand around her throat and another over her mouth as he straddled her while on the ground. Concerned neighbours heard the screams and came to her aid.
Neighbours gathered up her belongings that had fallen from her bag during the unprovoked attack. A couple of days later the victim went to her bag and found that it contained a baseball cap that did not belong to her. This was sent off for analysis and found to have DNA from Stephen Jay within it.
Jay was charged with assault causing actual bodily harm (ABH) with intent to commit a sexual attack, and with actual bodily harm and sexual attack on another 21-year-old woman in Hanover Terrace, Brighton, a few weeks later, on Thursday 1 September.
He stood trial on all three charges at Lewes Crown Court in May. The jury found him guilty of the first attack but could not agree whether it was with intent to commit a sexual act.
They acquitted him of both the counts relating to the second attack in Hanover Terrace.
At a retrial which ended on Tuesday (11 July) on the first count, a jury could still not agree whether the attack was sexually motivated or not so Jay will be sentenced just for ABH.
Detective Inspector Mick Jones said: “Stephen Jay is a former town pastor from Ipswich who was training to be a life coach to provide help to those who need it including the vulnerable.
“His work as a town pastor meant that he used to work during evenings in the city centre of Ipswich proving support for those often found vulnerable through drink and drugs. He was also a prominent member of his local church.
“Far from protecting the vulnerable, this investigation has shown him to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing – someone who targeted a lone woman walking home in the early hours of the morning and violently assaulted her in an unprovoked attack.
“Jay admitted that during that evening leading up to the attack and the early hours of the morning immediately afterwards, he was having a sexual conversation with another woman who he was having an online affair with, discussing his liking for bondage, domination and sado-masochism. After the assault, he admitted masturbating in his car in a public place.”
Self-employed Stephen Jay, who lives in the Kesgrave area of Ipswich, was acquitted two years ago of another attack on a young woman at the Liquid nightclub in Ipswich, who said he had sexually assaulted her in the back of his car while she was drunk.
Judge Christine Laing deferred sentencing until Tuesday 29 August for psychiatric reports to be prepared. Jay was remanded in custody.