An Eritrean migrant who entered Britain illegally two years ago has been jailed for eight years for a string of predatory sexual assaults on lone women in the seaside English city of Brighton and Hove.
Reporting on the sentencing hearing, Sussex Police ran the headline: “Brighton man jailed for city centre sexual assaults,” sparking anger from several social media users for the false reporting.
The man was actually 32-year-old Hanok Zeray, an Eritrean immigrant who arrived in Britain in 2021 and subsequently claimed asylum. Within a matter of months, Zeray was arrested on suspicion of rape in April last year and while out on bail conducted a string of sexual assaults on vulnerable women across the Brighton and Hove area.
After the initial attack on the Old Steine thoroughfare in Brighton on April 16, Zeray was released as police collected evidence pertaining to the alleged rape. On May 22, two further women reported sexual assaults in Brighton. One of these victims managed to avoid further danger by escaping from Zeray and locking herself in her flat.
Another woman reported being sexually assaulted in Elm Grove on Oct. 23.
“He harassed her persistently,” a police spokesperson said of the most recent attack. “But she was able to film him on her mobile phone and capture the sexual assault on film. Officers identified Zeray from the footage, and he was arrested shortly after,” they added.
Three further women came forward following his arrest to report sexual assaults across the English city.
Zeray pleaded guilty to six counts of sexual assault but not guilty to the rape, a charge that was later dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service following the guilty pleas.
At a sentencing hearing at Lewes Crown Court on July 21, a judge sentenced Zeray to eight years and three months in prison. He is also subject to an extended probation period of five years following his release.
Detective Constable Amy Pemberton-Hill said: “Hanok Zeray was a committed offender who presented a clear danger to lone women and girls.
“I would like to thank all these women for reporting his crimes to police and supporting the investigation through to prosecution.”
Superintendent Adele Tucknott, Sussex Police’s lead for violence against women and girls, said: “The behaviour shown by Hanok Zeray will not be tolerated in Sussex – from the persistent harassment of women through to the sexual assaults for which he has been jailed.
“Women and girls should be safe to walk the streets alone at any time of day or night without being targeted by predatory men,” she added.