Police hunt for student convicted of vicious attack

POLICE are hunting an attempted robber who failed to turn up to court where he was found guilty of a terrifying assault on a Harrogate woman.

Naim Hanif was part of a three-man gang who subjected Victoria James, who lives near Ripley, to a brutal attack after smoking drugs in Nidderdale in a stolen Vauxhall Vectra.

Muntaz Sawar and Mohammed Hoque – who are both 22 and from Leeds – were in court to hear the jury deliver their verdicts after just two-and-a-half hours' deliberation.

But Hanif, a weapons importer and student who is also from Leeds, did not attend York Crown Court on Monday and a warrant has since been issued for his arrest.

Hanif, Hoque and Sawar were all found guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, assault with intent to rob and possession of an offensive weapon. Hanif was also found guilty of aggravated vehicle taking.

The trio travelled to Nidderdale on July 23 last year and carried out a vicious attack on Mrs James after spotting her BMW car pulling into a field where she was due to feed her horses.

Sawar and Hoque then ran up to Mrs James' car, wrenched open the door, beat her about the face with a dummy stun-gun and dragged her out of the car.

But after Mrs James' screams alerted a neighbour, the pair fled back to the stolen car and Hanif drove them away at high speed towards Harrogate.

The Vectra later smashed into another car on a narrow bridge, leaving one elderly occupant requiring hospital treatment for her injuries – but again the trio fled.

DS Stuart Thompson, from North Yorkshire Police, who was in charge of the investigation, called the three "cowards and bullies" and denounced the horrifying assault.

"This was a vicious and frenzied attack which petrified Mrs James. She genuinely thought she was screaming for her life," he said.

All three face jail and the hunt for Hanif has now gone nationwide after his family confirmed he had left for London on November 29. Sentencing is due to take place today.

tom.cullimore@ypn.co.uk