An armed sex attacker who forced a teenage girl out of a shopping centre into a nearby Sunderland park where he raped her is facing years behind bars.
Syed Ali told his victim he was carrying a knife and warned she would be “hurt” if she did not leave the Bridges Shopping centre in Sunderland, with her friend and follow him to Mowbray Park.
Newcastle Crown Court heard the 47-year-old take-away worker then raped the frightened teenager in bushes at the city recreation area on December 8.
Ali, formerly of Sunderland, claimed throughout a trial by a jury he had consensual sex with the girl and said he gave her £10 to buy cigarettes.
After five hours deliberation jurors found him guilty of rape.
The dad-of-seven was found not guilty of sexually assaulting the girl’s friend,who had been with her on the shopping trip and at the park.
Ali, who had been on bail during the trial, will be sentenced in August and has now been remanded in custody.
Judge Paul Sloan QC warned him: “A substantial custodial sentence is inevitable in the circumstances of this case.”
The judge ordered pre-sentence reports to assess the risk and danger Ali poses to the community.
The court heard Ali initially lied to police about meeting a friend at the shopping centre then refused to give an explanation why he was there.
He was caught on CCTV “either following or simply walking behind” two schoolgirls in uniform before he crossed paths with his victim and her friend, who were on a shopping trip together.
Prosecutors say he could have been luring around the shopping complex looking for “likely targets”.
Footage from the corridor near the toilets in the centre show Ali cross paths with the victim and her friend, who were “oblivious” to him, walking past each other in opposite directions.
After spotting the two girls, Ali is shown to then turn around and walk in the same direction as them.
Prosecutor Gavin Doig told the court: “According to the complainants, he tells them he has a knife.
“They say he asks if they like sex. They say they told him ‘no’.
“They say they were told by him to come with him or they would be hurt.
“According to the girls, that’s why they followed him.”
Street cameras captured footage of the girls and Ali walking towards Mowbray park.
The court heard police were called to the scene after the attacks by one of the girls, who rang 999.
Mr Doig said: “She reported that her friend had been raped by a man who had followed them in the shopping centre.
“Police arrived at the park promptly to find the girls still there, still showing they were in a state of distress.”
The court heard Ali’s picture was retrieved from the CCTV footage at the shopping centre and it was circulated in a bid to track him down.
He handed himself in to the police station on December 12, insisting he had done nothing wrong.
Mr Doig added: “The prosecution say they phoned 999 because what had taken place in Mowbray Park was not consensual, it was rape.”