A mum who was preyed on by a takeaway owner has waived her right to anonymity to bravely tell how a sex attack wrecked her life.
Demi-Leigh Phillips was targeted by her mum’s boss Ranjeet Singh as he dropped off orders in Hendon, groping her before trying to force her to touch him.
The 18-year-old says she was also asked about her sex life and asked to send him inappropriate photographs.
Demi concealed the assault, which happened on February 27, fearing her mum Sharon Duggan would be homeless if she lost her job, but woke her in the early hours after she could no longer cope with the secret.
Now the student, who is mum to Evie, two, has spoken of her relief after Singh, 51, of Wynyard Street, Seaham, was found guilty of sexually touching her after a trial at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court.
In the wake of the ordeal, Demi’s relationship with Evie’s dad Steve Thompson, 17, broke down, she suffered from depression and insomnia and she lost their home as she struggled with debt.
Now the court case is over, it just feels like it has been lifted off me.Demi-Leigh Phillips
Now she is looking forward to getting her life back on track, with a new home, a training course as a carer under way and long-term hopes of a career as a morgue assistant.
Demi, who was 17 at the time, said: “It was just horrible.
“He’s stupid, he’s made one mistake and that mistake has cost him his family and business, his life really.”
Singh, who has since sold his chip shop, was sentenced to 26 weeks custody, suspended for 12 months, with a year-long restraining order in place in relation to Demi and her mum. He has to sign the Sex Offender Register for seven years and was ordered to pay £100 compensation, which Demi plans to put away for her daughter, £300 court costs, and a victim surcharge of £80.
“When I went to court I went in the witness room and even though I felt together, my legs were like jelly, but I thought I can’t back down, I’ve got to do it,” said Demi, of Hylton Castle.
“I was down with my mental health, it was just killing me.
“Now the court case is over, it just feels like it has been lifted off me.
“But he should have gone to jail, definitely. It wasn’t just sex abuse, it’s knocked my mental health.
“I had to give up my home. I stopped going out the house, I had to move in with my mam, ended up with lots of debt, but it also knocked my confidence.
“It’s scary how much someone you think you know can change.
“Steve was brilliant, but I just can’t trust blokes now.
“I was with him for three years, but with the depression and mood swings, it was hard.
“There were some days where I would be happy and jumping about, but then the next day I couldn’t be bothered.
“I found counselling too difficult and me and Steve decided not to be together, but would both be there for Evie.
“She’s what’s been keeping me going.
“I can’t thank all those who have been there for me enough. I hit rock bottom.
“I thought I had no one, but I was wrong.”
Mum Sharon, 45, who walked out of her job after discovering what Singh had done, said: “I’m furious about it.
“It’s affected Demi badly. She doesn’t feel safe.
“She woke me at 3.30am to tell me, she was so worried about telling me, but I told her it was all right and we phoned the police.
“Now she feels like a big weight has been lifted off her shoulders and the court case is no longer hanging over her.”