Man sentenced to 30 years in prison after choking woman in bed in Crawley

A 76-year-old man who assaulted and choked a woman in her bed has finally been brought to justice after 30 years of evading police.

Joseph Watts threatened to kill the known victim during the Crawley incident in January 1990.

His victim “thought she was going to die” – she was left with injuries to her neck and post-traumatic stress.

Watts, then 44, was charged by police and given bail conditions, including attending court.

But he left Sussex and disappeared.

On February 11, 1991, an arrest warrant was issued for him and his known addresses and places where he may have gone were checked, but the police were unable to locate him.

Watts lived under false names and aliases for the next three decades

There have been checks, reviews and appeals to try to find him, but no new lines of inquiry emerged until an officer from Sussex Police’s specialized enforcement unit reviewed outstanding warrants earlier this year.

The officer noted that there was finally a new lead to locating Watts from an official source.

Watts was eventually arrested in Gloucestershire on June 17.

Investigator Lauren Mann reviewed the 1990 paper evidence files and rebuilt the case.

This work ensured Watts, now 76, formerly of Banks Road, Crawley, was charged with aggravated assault.

Watts admitted the charges at Lewes Crown Court on October 21.

Thomas Acworth, prosecutor, told the court that the original incident happened on January 13, 1990.

Watts was at the victim’s home and they had consumed alcohol before he began talking obsessively about the occult and the supernatural.

The victim retreated to the bed before waking up to find Watts acting strangely, kneeling at the foot of the bed before jumping onto the bed to attack and choke her. He also threatened to kill her.

The victim was “terrified,” Mr Acworth said.

“She thought she was going to die,” he added.

The victim first reported the incident to a friend and then to the police, who arrested and later charged Watts.

Mr Acworth added: “Watt’s failure to surrender for 31.5 years cannot be described as anything other than a willful attempt to evade or delay justice.

“His failure to appear before the Crown Court in February 1991 appears to have caused significant delay and disruption of the administration of justice.”

Judge Christine Laing, KQ, said while Watts showed remorse, that was undermined by his lengthy disappearance, which prevented the victim from seeking justice.

The judge sentenced Watts, of Frederick Thomas Road, Cam, Gloucestershire, to four years and one month in prison.

After the case, Lauren Mann said, “This was a complex case that involved bringing together victim support, locating witnesses and obtaining new evidence.

“Working with the CPS, we were able to bring the case back to court and Watts had no choice but to plead guilty.

“It was a scary ordeal for her, so we’re delighted that she was finally able to experience justice.

“The case shows officers continue to pursue new lines of investigation that come to us to ensure dangerous offenders are brought to justice.” Man sentenced to 30 years in prison after choking woman in bed in Crawley

Fry Electronics Team

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