A SEXUAL predator has begun a life sentence after being found guilty of a string of rapes and sexual assaults against girls and young women.

His victims have been praised for their bravery in helping bring him to justice, especially after he intimidated one of them during the police investigation.

Harley Everest, 23, of Bohemia Road, St Leonards, was sentenced at Lewes Crown Court last week.

He was found guilty on May 9 of four counts of rape, one count of serious sexual assault, four counts of sexual assault and one count of witness intimidation.

He received a total sentence of life imprisonment and will have to serve a minimum of ten years and 165 days before being eligible to apply for parole. Everest will also be a registered sex offender for life.

One of the victims was 18 when he arranged to meet her in November 2015, taking her back to his flat where he raped and sexually assaulted her.

The young woman called 999 on the same day. A police investigation began immediately and Everest was arrested.

During the investigation the other two victims, who had been in relationships with Everest, were traced and reported that they had also been raped by him when they were 17, also in his flat.

One of them was the victim of one count of rape and four counts of sexual assault.

She was also the victim of witness intimidation, when Everest approached her in November 2017 while he was still under investigation and threatened her, which could have led her to withdraw her evidence. However, she promptly reported this to the police too. The other girl was a victim of rape and sexual assault.

Detective Constable Jane Donnelly of the Hastings Safeguarding investigations Unit said; “It became clear during our investigation that Everest posed a serious risk to vulnerable young females. He exhibited predatory behaviour towards them as he actively looked for opportunities to take advantage of these victims, all of whom he had met locally.

“They were all very vulnerable and all had varying degrees of learning difficulties.

“It is thanks to their bravery by standing up to him and their commitment during the trial that a very dangerous sexual predator is no longer able to manipulate and take advantage of more young girls.

“We will always seek to protect the most vulnerable in society from the actions of those who target them.”

She said victims of sexual offences could contact police and arrange to talk in confidence to experienced investigators.