Man who dragged girl into his car in Exmouth jailed

PUBLISHED: 11:07 06 December 2016 | UPDATED: 09:19 07 December 2016

Felix Reilly

Felix Reilly

Archant

A man who followed a terrified teenager around Exmouth town centre for ten minutes has been jailed for dragging her into his car and assaulting her.

The 19-year-old victim was groped by Felix Reilly as he bundled her into his car, but managed to escape and run to safety as he was getting in the driver’s door.

Football coach Reilly had spent the afternoon looking at sex and prostitution websites before he went out in his car in the early hours of the morning on June 5 this year, Exeter Crown Court was told.

The CCTV system in Exmouth captured him driving slowly around the streets for 20 minutes until he spotted the girl, who he followed for a further ten minutes before attacking her near the police station.

He dragged her into his car even though she was kicking out and screaming for help. He pushed her leg inside and slammed the door but she opened it again and he pushed her inside for a second time.

She only managed to get free as he had got into the driving seat and was about to drive off. She got the door open for the third time and ran off

Reilly, 30, has trained to be a football coach with a community programme run by Exeter City Football Club and had references from the club’s head of community Jamie Vittles and Exmouth Town manager Richard Pears.

Police praised the courage of his victim after he was jailed.

Reilly, of Maunders Place, Otterton, admitted sexual assault and was jailed for 18 months by Judge Graham Cottle.

He told Reilly: “This was a terribly terrifying experience for this young girl who was making her way home alone, at night, in Exmouth.

“You can be seen on CCTV clearly circling around in your vehicle and there comes a time when you are quite obviously following her.

“Eventually you tried to grab her. You grabbed her between the legs, pulling her into your car. I am not sure exactly how long she remained kidnapped but it was a few minutes before she was able to effect her release.

“It was a very frightening experience and her victim personal statement says how terrified she was and talks about the long term consequences for her of what you did that night.”

Mr Peter Coombe, prosecuting, said the evidence of Reilly’s internet use in the hours before the incident suggested he may have been planning an attack or abduction.

He said: “This case is serious because there was an abduction. There was planning because during the course of the day he was on the internet and looked at numerous sexual sites and at prostitute and escort services.

“The CCTV footage shows his car crawling around the town centre for 20 minutes, during the last ten of which he was following the complainant.

“He grabbed her and she resisted but he bundled her into his car and before that had rubbed his hand against her private parts over her clothing.

“There was a struggle in the car and she was ultimately able to escape. It is an aggravating feature t hat this happened at 4am in a town centre.”

Miss Pippa Woodrow, defending, said the sexual contact had been fleeting and the victim had opened the passenger door and escape while Reilly was getting in the driver’s door. She said the entire incident lasted for a very short time indeed.

She said Reilly had struggled in life and suffered a head injury in an assault and a back injury while working.

He had problems with accommodation and mental health and had previously benefited from an Exeter City Football Club coaching in the community course.

The court heard references from Exeter City’s Jamie Vittles and Exmouth Town’s Richard Pears, which both praised Reilly’s hard work and dedication.

Following the verdict and sentencing of Reilly, Detective Constable Georgina Gainford said: “This was clearly a frightening and traumatic incident and I thank the victim for her strength and bravery in coming forward to the police.

“Mr Reilly is clearly a dangerous individual and we are pleased that he has received a custodial sentence, as well as being placed on the sex offenders register.

“His conviction demonstrates that Devon and Cornwall Police will support victims of sexual offences and will work hard to bring these offenders to justice.”

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