August 2019

69-year-old guilty of sexual assault after offering teenage girl a lift in his car

A 69-year-old man who sexually assaulted a teenage girl after offering to give her a lift in his car has been found guilty, more than ten years after the attack.

Durham Crown Court heard how Henry Spark spotted the 17-year-old victim walking alone near Tanfield Lea at around 3am in April 2008 before pulling up behind her to offer her a lift.

Once she was in the car he forced her to perform a sex act on him and sexually assaulted her.

The victim reported the incident to police the next day, on April 14, 2008, but DNA found on her clothes did not match any held on record.

Ten years later the DNA was matched to Spark, now 69, a former delivery driver from Lanchester.

He initially denied all knowledge of the incident during an interview with police but later changed his story when presented with the DNA evidence.

The 69-year-old appeared at Durham Crown Court this week to face trial for causing a person to engage in sexual activity without consent, assault by penetration and sexual assault, after pleading not guilty.

Whilst giving evidence he said he suggested the teenager put her hands in between his legs to “warm them up.”

Adding: “I did it to see if she would.”

When asked by the prosecution why the victim would allege he assaulted her he said: “maybe she was looking for sympathy or empathy.”

The 17-year-old was nearing the end of a 12-mile walk from Brandon to Tanfield Lea after a ‘tiff with her boyfriend’ when she got into Spark’s car. She had already declined a lift off another man who pulled over, but told police Spark looked like a “decent man.”

During a closing statement, Spark’s defence said: “It’s a sordid account, he took advantage that evening.

“She would have never dreamed of [performing a sex act on] a man old enough to be her grandfather.

“She found herself cold and tired with sore feet and a long way from home, he propositioned her, he never should have but he did.”

However a spokesman for the CPS said: “He has to suggest that she was up for it because that’s the only way he can suggest it.”

Spark, of Deneside, Lanchester, was found guilty of all charges by a jury.

He is due to appear at Durham Crown Court for sentencing today (Wednesday, August 14).