Kidnap suspect faces jail for attacking girl, 8, in Brighton as she went to post letter

Posted On 04 Jul 2018 at 12:21 pm

A Brighton man who was charged with trying to kidnap and carry out a sex attack on an eight-year-old girl faces prison, a court was told this morning (Wednesday 4 July).

Michael Belhawla

Michael Belhawla, 24, of Auckland Drive, Bevendean, grabbed the terrified girl from behind, bundled her to the floor and put his hand over her mouth.

At Lewes Crown Court he pleaded guilty to assault causing grievous bodily harm (GBH), having denied the more serious charges.

Warwick Tatford, prosecuting, said: “The facts are rather troubling. The victim was going to the post office near her home to post a letter. She had asked permission from her mother.

“She felt someone was behind her and following her. The man pushed her to the ground and put his hand over her mouth – she felt it was so she couldn’t scream.”

Two brave passers by came to the girl’s rescue and Belhawla ran off.

She has since had post traumatic stress disorder diagnosed as a result of the attack.

Sarah Thorne, defending, said: “Mr Belhawla was very drunk. He collided with the young girl.”

She said: “He has been in the care system since he was four. There are drug and alcohol issues.

“He’s complicated … but he’s never been properly assessed. He knows he faces a custodial sentence.”

The offence took place just before 8.30am on Saturday 5 May in Tidy Street, near the corner of Gloucester Road, in the North Laine area of Brighton.

Judge Charles Kemp said that in light of “these somewhat peculiar circumstances” he would order a psychiatric assessment to help him when he sentences Belhawla next month.

Belhawla, who is currently in Lewes Prison, was remanded in custody until his sentencing date on Friday 31 August.

A security camera image which was published during the hunt for Michael Belhawla

He also admitted drink driving in a Ford Transit in Auckland Drive in July last year and having no insurance for the van.

Judge Kemp imposed an immediate provisional driving ban while noting that it was academic for now.

He heard that Belhawla had faced a number of other unrelated charges, all of which he denied.

These included burglary, assault causing grievous bodily harm (GBH), having a weapon and wounding with intent. The judge ordered that those charges should not be proceeded with but left on the file.

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