Heroic Luton couple commended after saving woman from rapist

The woman was attacked in Popes Meadow
The woman was attacked in Popes Meadow

A couple who went to the aid of a sex attack victim in a Luton park are to receive a commendation and £500 reward from Bedfordshire’s High Sheriff for their bravery.

John Laidlaw and his partner Janice Heath were woken in the early hours of the morning by the screams of the victim coming from Pope’s Meadow.

The woman, whose face was being ground into the mud, was shouting to Bangladeshi Roni Miah: “Leave me alone. What are you doing? Go away.”

Mr Laidlaw, who had previously served in the military, went out with his partner and his dog to investigate, Luton Crown Court heard on Friday.

He told the police the woman’s hysterical screams could not have been any louder and it was as if she was in fear of her life. Miah had pinned the woman down and had his trousers below his knees.

Mr Laidlow told Miah to get off and took hold of him, while his partner comforted the victim. Another neighbour arrived and his wife called the police.

Alcohol was smelt on Miah, who said: “This isn’t me. I am not this type of person.”

Miah, 24, of Ashburnham Road, Luton, appeared for sentence having earlier pleaded guilty to attempting to rape the woman at 5am on August 20 this year.

The woman suffered bruising all over her body, sore ribs, and had to go to the doctor for treatment for mud in her eye.

She told the police the only reason she was not raped was because she had done the belt on her jeans up so tightly.

In her statement she said she had left a friend’s house to walk to her parents’ home.

Miah approached her and began to talk to her. He said repeatedly that he wanted her to go back to his house where there was drink and drugs.

He wanted to hold hands with her, but she refused. She tried to walk away, but was followed. As she approached Pope’s Meadow, he grabbed her and forced her to the ground.

She said he had tremendous strength, put his hand over her mouth, got on top of her and pulled his pants down.

He used his knees to restrain her and had his arms around her neck, which he was trying to twist and made her feel as if he was trying to break it.

She told him she had asthma, in and attempt to get him to release her. He continued and simulated sex while on top of her, also slapping her face and grabbing her hair.

He put her head in the mud and he was saying “Be quiet. Shut up, you bitch.”

The court heard that there is likely to be an order for Miah, who came to the UK aged 13, to be deported.

Judge Michael Kay QC passed a 10 year sentence. He must serve a six-year term in jail and a further four years when he will be on licence until 2027 when he will be liable to be recalled to prison.

The judge said the offence was “every woman’s nightmare.”

He said: “It can have untold psychological effects, beside the physical ones.”

Judge Kay told Miah: “You displayed your warped attitude to women – you thought she might be someone who would agree to sex because she was out in the early hours of the morning.

“She made it plain she wanted you to leave her alone. You did not listen to her. You dragged her from the street into the parkland and you attacked her. Your intention was to rape her.

“She may have been fortunate – her belt was fastened so tightly you couldn’t get her jeans off and secondly, a brave individual who heard her shouting, came out to help.

“Your response in interview and subsequently in your pre-sentence report has been that the attack was on you and not by you.

“Even after your plea of guilty you accuse your victim of pestering you for sex.

“It is so obviously untrue, having regard to her evidence and that of Mr Laidlaw, it is a matter of great concern that you maintain this position even after you plead guilty.

“You have no insight in the evil of what you attempted to do or even that it is wrong.”

The judge said if he had the jurisdiction to recommend deportation he would do so.

After sentencing he said he wanted to acknowledge the bravery of Mr Laidlaw and his partner, by making a High Sheriff award, saying many other people would not have intervened.