A 56-year-old cannabis addict who was high on cocaine and alcohol lured a 16-year-old girl back to his campervan after plying her with drink and drugs, before sexually assaulting her.

Neville Chapman, now 60, committed the terrifying crimes in Darwen in September 2019.

He was finally found guilty of assault by penetration following a trial in June 2023, which had been delayed multiple times, and was granted conditional bail by Judge Graham Knowles KC to appear for his sentence hearing in August.

However, Chapman, previously of Bridgefield Close, Rishton, failed to appear for his sentence hearing, which placed him in breach of bail, and instead, went on the run for almost four weeks.

Preston Crown Court heard his disappearance sparked a major manhunt by Lancashire Police, in which underwater search and rescue teams were deployed, and thousands of pounds spent on a campaign to find him.

When he was eventually apprehended in September 2023, he was charged with breach of bail, and a further charge of breaching his sex offender notification requirements imposed upon him by Judge Knowles at the completion of his trial and was remanded into custody.

The notification breach related to Chapman failing to tell the police he was no longer residing at Bridgefield Close, following an argument with his sister, whose home he was staying at.

Lancashire Telegraph: A police handout from when Chapman went on the run in August 2023A police handout from when Chapman went on the run in August 2023 (Image: Lancs Police)

On Thursday, January 11, Chapman was finally brought back before Judge Knowles to be sentenced for the crime he committed in September 2019.

The court was told that on September 16 that year, Chapman and others had been out drinking and taking drugs in Darwen.

At some time during the course of the evening, a 16-year-old girl joined him and his party, with Chapman plying her with double vodkas, and even cocaine, to the point where, as she described in her victim personal statement, she was “wasted”.

As the teenager became even more intoxicated, to the extent where she vomited in the toilets of a pub they were in, Chapman and his friends decided to leave so Chapman could “get more cocaine”.

They then went back to his campervan, with the girl being taken along with them.

The court heard the teenager was under the assumption Chapman would “give her a lift home”, but this never happened.

As the night wore on, and Chapman’s friends departed, he and his victim were left alone in his campervan.

Judge Knowles said: “You asked her, ‘do you want to go home or stay here with me’?

“Unsurprisingly, she said she wanted to go home but you drove your campervan, and then parked up and clambered into the back with her, where you tried to kiss her, pulled her top down and pulled her pants down.”

Judge Knowles told the court that the girl, “felt disgusted and tried to push him away before vomiting again”.

Undeterred, Chapman continued to try and undress her and then sexually assaulted her.

He continued: “She said she felt a tightness in her chest and couldn’t breathe.

“She eventually managed to push you off and got out and started walking away.”

At this point Chapman tried to follow the girl in his van, despite being intoxicated himself, until she turned down an alley and ran home.

The teenager told her mother what had happened, and the police were called, but when he was arrested, Chapman told officers: “Look at the size of her, if I wanted to rape her there would have been nothing she could do about it.”

Judge Knowles went on: “You are 60 now, and you have been a cannabis user for most of your life.

“You struck when she was isolated and alone with you in your van in the early hours, with little likelihood of anyone coming to her aid.

“You blamed her in your interview and blamed her outright for what happened.

“You pose a risk to young girls, and the sentence I give you must be an extended one.”

Chapman, who has no previous convictions, pleaded guilty to a bail act offence and breach of the sex offender notification requirements.

He was found guilty after trial of two counts of sexual assault - one by penetration, and was jailed for 10 years and eight months, with a three year extended licence period, giving a total extended sentence of 13 years and eight months.

He was also told to sign the sex offender’s register for life.

DS Mark Parrington, of the East Child Protection Team, said: “This was a particularly nasty offence committed against a 16-year-old girl while she was clearly in a vulnerable state.

“This offence has very much had an impact on her, made all the worse by Chapman forcing her to re-live her ordeal during a trial.

“We take all offences of this nature extremely seriously and do everything in our power to put the perpetrators before the courts.

"I would ask anyone who has been the victim of a sexual offence to contact the police, knowing they will be believed and listened to.”