I was on my way to a party, but there was danger lurking in the shadows…
By Abi Color, 22
As I swung my work locker closed with a bang, I scrolled through my phone to catch up on the texts I’d missed.
When you’re done at work, how about that party? my friend Tom, 18, had written.
It was nearly midnight and I was tired from my shift at Tesco. But, it was a bank holiday weekend and everyone else was having fun.
Besides, what else was I going to do? I’d been dating a new guy for a few weeks, but he’d ditched me just a couple of days before.
I could do with cheering up, and the house party did sound like it would be a laugh.
Go on then, I’ll see you in a bit, I replied.
So, I changed out of my work uniform, and pulled on my favourite deep blue sparkly dress.
Then, I popped in my iPod headphones and set off on the route towards the local football ground where I’d arranged to meet Tom.
It was a walk I’d done countless times before after work, and I felt completely safe.
But, after stopping off at a bar for a lemonade on the way to say hello to a mate, I began to feel uneasy.
I had my music turned up loud so I couldn’t hear anything. But, I had the strangest sensation that I was being watched.
I’d crossed the bridge over the river, just a couple of minutes away from where I was meeting my friend Tom, when I turned to glance behind me.
I nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw a man walking right behind me.
Spooked, I gave an awkward smile and turned to pick up my pace.
There was something strangely familiar about the man’s face, as if I’d seen him before.
He looked not much older than me.
Perhaps I’ve seen him at a local gig or something, I thought.
But before I could place him, he lunged at me from behind and grabbed at my cheek.
I screamed as he pushed me to the floor and fell straight on top of me.
He pinned me down with the whole weight of his body. All I could see was his face, just inches above mine.
‘Tesco,’ he snarled, groping around to yank my dress up around my waist. What did he mean?
As I was trapped beneath him, he reached down and brutally ripped a hole in my tights to claw his way towards my knickers.
All I could think about was escaping, and my mind flipped to all the silly crime dramas I’d ever seen on television.
I knew I needed to fight as hard as I could.
I kicked and flailed around, but my attacker was determined.
So, instead I started shouting.
‘Fire, police, murder…’ I yelled from the bottom of my lungs, anything that I thought would get someone’s attention. ‘Rape, help!’
But, it was nearly midnight and the road was dead. Not a single car drove by. There was no-one to help me.
I knew what was coming next. The sick stranger was going to rape me, and there was nothing I could do to stop him.
Even worse, I was a virgin. I was shaking with fear.
Then, suddenly, footsteps came running towards me.
‘Hey, you,’ a voice yelled.
My attacker sprang to his feet, and I craned my neck to see a group of people were leaving a nearby KFC.
One of them had heard my screams and was coming to help.
The attacker sprinted off down the road, while my saviours gave chase.
I was left alone, sprawled on the pavement. That’s when I burst into tears of relief.
The ordeal had been horrific, but at least I was safe now.
I tugged down my dress, my hands shaking.
Desperate to get away, I hurried down the road towards where I was supposed to be meeting Tom.
‘What happened to you?’ he said, his smile fading as soon as the beam of the streetlight fell over me.
I looked down to see my dress was torn and my tights were ripped to shreds.
‘I… I… I was attacked,’ I said.
‘By who? What happened? Just now?’ Tom fired questions at me.
I couldn’t answer though. In shock, I couldn’t even form words to explain what had happened.
Then Tom scooped me up in his arms and carried me back to his house.
Gradually, over the course of the night, I managed to tell Tom what I’d been through.
‘But I can’t tell the police, I just can’t,’ I said. I didn’t want to be questioned about it.
It had been terrifying, and I wanted to forget it had ever happened.
But the next day, I cut through town on the way home when I broke down in tears again. The security team at the shopping centre ushered me into a back room, and phoned the police.
Down at the station, still shaking, I told a female officer every detail I could remember.
‘You weren’t the only girl attacked last night,’ she said, handing me a box of tissues to wipe my tears. ‘Don’t worry, we’ve already caught him.’
It was like a cloud of fear was instantly lifted. The sick sex monster was already off the streets.
‘But we still need your help for evidence,’ she added.
I had to give the police my outfit for DNA checks to be done, and then I was taken down to identify my attacker from a lineup.
As soon as I saw his face I felt haunted.
‘That’s him,’ I said, confidently. I felt strong knowing that man, John Hinton, wasn’t going to get away with what he’d done.
But as the police began to piece together Hinton’s actions that evening I felt sick with guilt.
He’d started his four-hour crime spree by attacking two other girls. They’d screamed and he’d punched them, before running off.
That’s when he found me. Police tracked him on CCTV, following me from town. He’d seen me leave the bar, and I thought perhaps he’d assumed I’d be drunk and an easy target.
But I’d only been in there a few minutes, not even enough time to finish my lemonade.
I thought after I’d escaped he’d have been too spooked to strike again. However, just an hour later he pounced on an defenceless 15-year-old girl.
She hadn’t been so lucky. He’d brutally raped her in a park, before performing a magic trick for her and asking if she’d be his girlfriend.
He even put his mobile number in her phone and told her to text him when she was home safe.
He was dangerous and clearly unhinged. And, I couldn’t help feel it was partly my fault.
I could have saved that girl if I’d fought harder, or if I’d phoned the police straight away. Or even if he’d raped me instead.
By the time the case went to court the evidence against Hinton was chilling.
Police revealed he’d kept a diary fantasising about murdering women, and even eating them.
He referred to himself as ‘the Devil,’ and wrote ‘I still feel like killing and eating somebody. I’ll catch the prey and tie her up.’
Was that what he would have done to me? I shuddered.
A few months later Hinton had already pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting and attempting to rape me. However, desperate for closure I still went to court.
I discovered Hinton had just been released from prison for burglary time of the attacks. He’d been living in a hostel just around the corner from the Tesco where I worked.
This time, as I looked as his cold, remorseless face I knew exactly where I knew him from. I realised I remembered him coming into the store. Suddenly, it made sense why he kept saying ‘Tesco’ as he carried out his sick sex attack.
Then, in April 2013, John Hinton was jailed indefinitely at Peterborough Crown Court.
The judge ordered him to serve at least six years for rape, attempted rape, sexual assault, causing actual bodily harm, wounding and assault by beating, and added that he wouldn’t be released until he was determined to no longer be dangerous.
He deserved every single moment that he’d spend in jail. But, I’d been left with a life sentence too.
I had terrifying flashbacks, and the attack had completely destroyed my relationship with my family. I felt they didn’t support me at all.
Then, when rumours circulated that the attack had been my fault and worse, that I’d made the whole thing up, it became too much to bear.
I attempted suicide, before moving 100 miles away to start a new life where no-one know what I’d been through.
Now I’m slowly rebuilding my life with the support of my boyfriend, Tom.
That cannibal rapist really was the devil, he wasn’t wrong about that. But, I won’t let him break me.