Sexual ‘predator’ raped girl, 16, after he was set free from prison by mistake

·4-min read
William Fernandez
William Fernandez

A sexual predator raped a 16-year-old girl and sexually assaulted another young woman after he was let out of prison by mistake, a court has heard.

William Fernandez, 26, was being held at HMP Wormwood Scrubs while awaiting a trial for grabbing a woman’s bottom in Brixton town centre and flashing the victim’s friends when they complained about his behaviour.

However he was set free in error by the prison service in March 2021, and went on to carry out two serious sexual assaults in the Bristol area while evading police efforts to capture him.

At Inner London crown court on Thursday, Judge Freya Newbery heard Fernandez has psychopathic traits, is adept at manipulation, and had targeted lone and vulnerable females while on the loose from prison.

“Matters escalated considerably when the defendant regrettably was at large, having been released in error from prison”, she said.

“He is quite clearly and unequivocally dangerous – it’s obvious from the escalation of offences that he is a sinister and predatory person with a history of violence.”

William Fernandez (PA Wire)
William Fernandez (PA Wire)

Judge Newbery concluded Fernandez has little chance of rehabilitation and continues to pose a danger to women, as she sentenced him to nine years and eight months in prison with an added six years on licence.

The court heard the first offences happened on April 20, 2020, when Spanish national Fernandez was drunk and approached a woman on Brixton High Road in the middle of the day.

“He grabbed her bottom in Brixton town centre, by his own admission while being heavily under the influence of alcohol”, said prosecutor James Dick.

He said the woman’s friends chased after Fernandez to angrily confront him, at which point he “made a crude gesture” and pulled down his trousers.

Fernandez was arrested and held on remand for almost a year, but the Met Police revealed in an appeal in late March 2021 that he had been mistakenly released by the prison service.

Images of him at Oxford Circus and walking along Wealdstone High Street were released publicly, as well as details of a cross tattoo on his neck and his alias of Agustin Fernando Jimenez Eiberte.

William Fernandez (PA Wire)
William Fernandez (PA Wire)

However, Fernandez evaded capture until, on May 11, 2021, in Weston Super Mare, he targeted a 19-year-old woman.

“He kissed her against her will on the neck, on the lips, and tried to put his tongue into her mouth”, said Mr Dick.

Judge Newbery said Fernandez “took advantage” of the woman as she walked near to a deserted road bridge, displaying “the first signs of deliberate targeting of young women who were on their own”.

The following day, CCTV captured Fernandez leading the 16-year-old girl to a secluded car park in Bristol when he “aggressively” forced her to carry out a sex act on him.

In a victim impact statement, the girl said she has suffered panic attacks, struggles to trust older men, is “uneasy” on public transport, and has had to give up four jobs due to the impact of the attack.

“She says she is relieved it is over, but when he is released she will want to move out of the area”, said Mr Dick.

HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) said release procedures have been overhauled as a result of Fernandez’s case, with independent checks by three senior officials before inmates are set free.

“We sincerely apologise to those affected by this case”, said a spokesperson.

“Releases in error are rare. HMPPS has since introduced additional checks and safeguards to prevent similar incidents happening in future.”

The court heard Fernandez dodged his trial and failed to turn up to the sentencing hearing, and can only be moved around prison by officers wearing specialist protection clothing due to his volatile nature.

Judge Newbery said he attempted to manipulate the court process to heap more delay and misery on the rape victim, and he “attempted to intimidate the doctor” during a mental health assessment.

Fernandez, who had a previous address in Manor Park, east London, may face deportation before the end of his prison sentence. He was found guilty at trial of rape, two counts of sexual assault, and exposure.

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