A cocaine user who shattered a woman’s skull in a “savage sexual and physical assault” and left her for dead near a children’s play park has been given a life sentence with a minimum of 18 years.
During the sentencing of Zakarya Etarghi, Judge Nicholas Dean QC said it was “difficult to conceive” of a more serious offence.
He added: “This was also a most brutal sexual attack – savage is not too extreme a word to use of the sexual and physical violence used by you.”
A jury was told Etarghi brutally attacked a woman in her 50s and just hours later pleaded with friends to get him on a truck that would take him out of the country.
The victim was left with life-threatening injuries after the incident off Cedar Road, Leicester, just after 4.45am on August 3 last year.
The prosecution told the jury panel of six men and six women at Leicester Crown Court the details of the case they would hear would be “shocking” and they would need to “steel themselves”.
The woman suffered massive facial trauma, a complex open skull fracture with bleeding to the brain, life-threatening low blood pressure, contusion to the left lung, spinal fractures and significant brain injuries.
DNA profiles obtained from blood from pieces of paper and cigarette packets in the defendant’s flat matched that of the woman, the prosecution said.
In a statement read on behalf of the victim by prosecutor William Harbage QC, the woman said: “What happened was like something out of a horror film.
“I think he’s a horrible and disgusting human being because what he did goes beyond anything that I can speak of.
“I feel like I constantly need help and cannot live my life as independently as I once did. Sometimes I just sob to myself because it is so hard.”
Describing her experience of the trial, the victim added: “I had to walk out at one point because it all got too much.
“I could not stand the lies that were being said about me. I felt totally humiliated by the whole thing.
“Despite all this, I’m glad I came to court. I wanted justice and that is what I got. I wanted him to know that he can’t make life any worse for me than he already has.”
The victim added: “I’m still here, I’m still alive and for that I’m grateful.”
Jurors heard the defendant had admitted he was present in the park that night but denied both charges of attempted murder and rape – saying someone else must have been responsible.
The court was told Etarghi sent “incriminating” messages to his friends after the alleged attack – including one which said: “I can just see it, today is the day I get nicked.”
Other messages, sent to his friends via WhatsApp, indicated he would have “handed myself in by now” if his “bro wasn’t coming out” and that he was “looking at 10 to 20” – which the prosecution suggested was referring to the number of years in prison.
The jury also heard the defendant was searching the internet looking for the latest “crime news” and paying “close attention” to the incident in Cedar Park within six hours of the incident.
He had fled 60 miles away to Stoke-on-Trent and “laid low” for a fortnight until his arrest, the court heard.
Etarghi, wearing a white shirt and a black tie, was flanked by four dock officers on the first day of his trial on Tuesday.
Opening the case against the 24-year-old, prosecutor William Harbage QC said: “It was, as you will hear, a brutal attack.
“The details which I have to tell you about are shocking. I feel duty-bound to give you a warning that you will need to steel yourselves to a certain degree to hear them.
“The man who carried out this savage sexual and physical assault … we say, was the defendant in this case, Zakarya Etarghi.”
Detailing the facts of the case, Harbage continued: “(The alleged victim) was left for dead in the park that night. Miraculously, she did not die. Nonetheless, her injuries have been life-altering.
“There were no eyewitnesses to what took place, but female screams were heard on more than one occasion during the early hours of that night.
“The police were called and they found (the alleged victim) lying semi-conscious on the ground. Her head was covered in blood and police noticed a large and very deep wound to her head.
“You will have little doubt that she was the victim of two crimes in the incident that night – firstly a rape, an appalling sexual assault, and secondly attempted murder, an equally horrendous physical assault.”
The court heard Etarghi had said in a police interview that both he and his alleged victim had taken cocaine before the incident.