A DETECTIVE has praised members of the public for their actions after a woman was sexually assaulted in a Yeovil underpass.

Matthew Farwell, 31, of Newstead Road, Weymouth, was jailed for four-and-a-half years at Bristol Crown Court yesterday (September 2), for a sexual assault on a woman in the Reckleford underpass.

Farwell, who worked at RNAS Yeovilton, followed the 25-year-old victim through the underpass at around 1.20am on Sunday 26 January.

When she heard footsteps behind her, the victim turned around and Farwell punched her in the face and dragged her to the ground. He then pulled her back into the underpass where he sexually assaulted her.

The victim’s screams were overheard by a patient on the fifth floor of the nearby Yeovil District Hospital, who saw the attack taking place and alerted a nurse, who called police.

Farwell stopped the assault and ran off along a footpath towards Reckleford.

The victim managed to run out of the underpass and flag down a taxi driver, who took her to the A&E department at the hospital.

Investigating officer Det Con Karen Holt said: “This was a terrifying ordeal for the victim who was violently attacked before being overpowered and sexually assaulted.

“It’s no exaggeration to say she thought she was going to be killed and this assault has had a long-lasting impact on her, as well as those close to her.

“I’d like to praise all the members of the public whose actions helped the victim at her time of need, including the patient and nurse at the hospital who raised the alarm and the taxi driver who drove her to hospital.

"Their actions are among the few positives to come out of this distressing case.

“I’d also like to praise Farwell’s colleagues from RNAS Yeovilton, who did everything they could to assist our investigation. Some of them had been out with Farwell on the evening leading up to the assault and their evidence helped piece together what happened.

“When he was interviewed, Farwell repeatedly denied sexually assaulting the victim but this was disproved by DNA evidence and the accounts of witnesses and he was left with no option but to plead guilty at court.

“I welcome the sentence given to him and I hope it shows the public how seriously we treat sexual assaults.

“I would urge any victims to use this conviction as a catalyst to come forward, no matter how long ago the incident happened.”