A sex offender who devastated his victim’s life by inflicting “a woman’s worst nightmare” on her is facing a lengthy jail term, York Crown Court heard.

Judge Simon Hickey was speaking after a jury convicted Thomas Joshua Bird of three sexual assault charges committed on a woman walking alone for early morning exercise in a North Yorkshire village.

The jury heard how, dressed in dark clothing and wearing a surgical mask, he had come up behind the woman, pushed her to the ground and sexually attacked her three times. They were strangers to each other.

In a statement to the court, the woman told how she was physically sick when she had to pass the scene of the attack some weeks later.

"This woman's life has been devastated by this attack in my judgement," the judge said. "This type of offence is an extremely rare offence. Assaulting a woman in this way is a woman's worst nightmare."

She said she had been out for a walk on a normal day that had turned out to be "the worst day of my life".

"I will never recover from what has happened," she said. "I will never be the same person I was before the attack."

Adjourning sentence so that probation officers could assess how dangerous Bird is, he told the sex attacker he was considering passing an extended lengthy sentence for public protection.

Bird, 30, of Fairfield, Fairburn near Selby, denied two charges of attempted sexual assault, one of sexual assault, and one of refusing to give police the PIN number of his phone. He was convicted of all four offences.

After the verdicts, Dan Cordey, prosecuting, revealed Bird had convictions for violence towards three previous partners and police had warned his current partner about him when he moved in with her.

She was in the public gallery to support him and cried as the jury returned their verdicts after nearly nine hours in retirement.

Bird's barrister Thomas Moran said his violence towards partners had been some years ago and there was no suggestion he had been violent towards his current partner. He has no previous sexual convictions.

The judge commended Det Con Vincent Morris and the rest of the police team in the case for their work, which he said had resulted in the conviction of a "very dangerous offender".

The detective spent three days compiling video footage of Bird's movements around the time of the attack.

In the footage, the jury saw Bird's car driving around the village in the run-up to the attack and him leaving the car dressed in dark clothing.

They heard he had been following another lone woman, but had returned to his car without attacking her when she stopped to speak to an acquaintance.

The video footage then showed him driving off towards the place where he attacked his victim.