Jail for Brighton kidnap suspect who left girl, 8, with post-trauma stress

Posted On 31 Aug 2018 at 7:18 pm

A Brighton man who was charged with trying to kidnap and carry out a sex attack on an eight-year-old girl has been jailed for 11 years.

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.

She had post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosed as a result of the attack, which happened in the North Laine area of Brighton in May, Lewes Crown Court was told.

At a hearing last month 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.

In his defence last month, his barrister Sarah Thorne said: “Mr Belhawla was very drunk. He collided with the young girl.”

She added: “He has been in the care system since he was four. There are drug and alcohol issues. He’s complicated.”

Belhawla, who also lived for a while at the YMCA premises in North Road, Brighton, admitted assault causing grievous bodily harm (GBH), having denied the more serious kidnap and sex attack charges.

He was arrested two days after the incident which happened just before 8.30am on Saturday 5 May in Tidy Street, near the corner of Gloucester Road.

He was jailed for three years by Judge Charles Kemp at Lewes today (Friday 31 August) and sentenced for two other offences.

The longest stretch – seven years – was handed down for a violent attack in Castle Square, Brighton, in January last year.

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

Belhawla pleaded guilty to wounding with intent at an earlier hearing, having attacked Gareth Jamieson, 37, with a broken bottle.

Mr Jamieson suffered a “hideous injury” to his back, needing 11 stitches, and was described as having been traumatised as a result.

Six months after trying to stab Mr Jamieson, he took a white Ford Transit and managed to crash into a Ford Focus car while over the drink drive limit.

Belhawla admitted aggravated vehicle taking – and driving while over the limit and with no insurance – close to his Bevendean home.

For those offences, in July last year, he was today sentenced to a further year in prison, making 11 in total. He was also banned from driving.

At Lewes last month Judge Kemp 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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