A bus driver from Brighton has been jailed for sexually abusing two girls and two women.
Mark Spalding, 29, of Whitehawk Road, Brighton, abused the two women – overseas students – on a bus on the Sussex University campus, having pulled over in Village Way, Falmer.
One of his terrified victims was 21 and the other was 30. They feared that he was trying to rape or kidnap them.
Spalding also admitted abusing two girls, aged 13 to 15 years old, in Lewes Road, Brighton, and at the Devil’s Dyke after grooming them.
He admitted inciting them to take part in sexual activity. One of them was the daughter of a man who had regarded him as a friend.
In a victim impact statement one of the girls said that she had tried to kill herself. In her statement, read to the court by barrister Kris Berlevy, she said: “I used to spend ages in the shower washing my hair and brushing it, trying to get rid of every trace of him.
“He was eating me up inside. I was cutting myself with razor blades and broken glass. I burnt myself with a lighter.
“I have been drinking and smoking a lot. I can’t sleep. I couldn’t get a bus for a long time.
“He used to wear Lynx and now if I smell it, it makes me sick. I feel so nervous wherever I am – jumpy.”
The other girl has been prescribed medication for anxiety after also becoming suicidal. In her statement, she said: “I haven’t been able to enjoy myself without looking over my shoulder.
“I have nightmares. I dream about being dragged out of a bus.
“At times I have to be alone because all I want to do is cry. I am constantly on edge.
“I was scared being alone coming home in the dark. I was worried that his car would be parked outside our flat. Sometimes I feel physically sick.
“Recently I have completed my GCSEs. I found it very hard to concentrate.
“My mum hardly sleeps. I know she worries about me constantly.”
At Hove Crown Court Judge Shani Barnes, the honorary recorder of Brighton and Hove, sentenced Spalding to nine years in prison.
She said: “You acknowledge that you have a problem and something has got to change. You’ve traumatised four young women.”
Judge Barnes said that she was sentencing Spalding, who has since moved to Furze Common Road, Thakeham, to four years concurrently for two of the eight offences that he admitted.
She told him that he would spend at least three of those four years in prison before serving an extended sentence released on licence because he posed a danger to girls and young women.
His behaviour had, the judge said, been “absolutely terrifying” and the psychological harm that he had caused “is very serious indeed”.
She added: “Your predatory behaviour, your systematic abuse, belie your cheeky chappie demeanour.
“You present a high risk of harm to children.”
The judge praised the girls and their families and thanked them for their patience during the long process of bringing the case to a conclusion.
Spalding has signed the sex offenders’ register and has been made the subject of a sexual harm prevention order.
Sussex Police said: “The offences were committed over a period of 19 months while Spalding was working for Brighton and Hove Buses.
“The adults were both foreign students who were on buses being driven by Spalding at Falmer in September and December 2015.
“The younger victims were two schoolgirls he knew, groomed and assaulted over a period of 19 months between 2014 and 2015.
“Spalding admitted two counts of sexual activity with one girl, aged between 13 and 14, and one count of causing or inciting her to engage in sexual activity, all on buses.
“He also admitted the same three charges concerning the other girl, then aged between 14 and 15, two of which were committed on buses.
“The prosecution, authorised by the Crown Prosecution Service, followed an investigation by detectives from the Brighton Safeguarding Investigations Unit.”
Detective Constable Elaine Welsh said: “Spalding is clearly a predatory sex offender who took advantage of his access to young women and and vulnerable girls.
“This has had a huge impact on his victims and their families.
“All four were prepared to give evidence in court until he changed his pleas just before the trial was due to start.
“All of them, and in particular the two younger girls, have shown immense courage and remained committed throughout this distressing case.”