A PREDATORY sex attacker has been jailed after he followed a young woman for more than a mile before violently sexually assaulting her and trying to rape her in a subway.

Phillip Williams, aged 45, of Kershaw Avenue, Prestwich, was sentenced to 18 years in prison at Bolton Crown Court today, and must serve a minimum of 12 years before being considered for parole.

Williams attacked the 20-year-old woman at about 5.30pm on November 3 while she was walking to the subway in Bury New Road, which runs under junction 17 of the M60.

The woman was listening to music on her headphones, and unknown to her, had been followed by Williams for more than a mile.

As she emerged from the other side of the subway, Williams dragged her by the hair back into the subway tunnel.

He then punched the woman in the face and slammed her head against the wall.

Williams said he had a knife and threatened to stab the woman if she did not do what he said.

She attempted to call the police, and he grabbed the phone and took it away from her, but 999 operators could still hear the violent attack.

The woman fought Williams off as he sexually assaulted her and tried to rape her.

The attack only ended when a passer-by interrupted Williams, and he ran off towards the footbridge over the motorway, stealing her handbag as he fled.

Williams had previously pleaded guilty to attempted rape, sexual assault by penetration, committing an offence with intent to commit a sexual offence, and robbery.

Det Insp Damian Simpson, from the police's serious sexual offences unit, said: “From the moment we received the call reporting this attack, it was apparent there were some chilling elements to it.

“We were dealing with a man who seemed so determined to attack this woman that he didn’t care he had chosen to do it in a busy location when there were likely to be a lot of people around, and he even carried on with his appalling assault knowing his victim was on the phone to police.

“We can only imagine the horrendous ordeal that this young woman suffered at the hands of Williams, and I am only thankful he was interrupted before he could cause her even further trauma.

“The investigation team worked tirelessly to ensure that the man responsible for this awful incident was caught and put before the courts, and today we have rightfully seen this dangerous and predatory sex attacker put behind bars for a long time.

“The streets are a safer place without him walking them and I hope that today’s sentence can provide at least some solace to Williams’ victim, as she tries to move on from what has happened.”