The woman, who is in her 60s, was subjected to the terrifying attack carried out by pervert Lee Belsham, who has been handed an extended 10-year jail sentence.
The brave woman faced 38-year-old Belsham at Leeds Crown Court where she read out a statement on how the attack had affected her.
She said: “I thought I was going to die, I was so scared. That memory will live with me forever and haunts me to this day.”
Belsham followed the woman along the path on Sowgate Lane at Knottingley at around lunchtime on March 6 this year. He then “rugby tackled” her as she entered one of the small tunnels that run under the M62 and A1(M).
With her face down on the floor, he sat on her back and began to sexually assault her, touching her between her legs and putting his hands under her bra, repeatedly telling her that he would kill her if she screamed.
He dragged her to her feet told her to “drop them”, referring to her underwear. She then told him it was a busy path where people walked, and Belsham “came to his senses” before making off.
He was later arrested after nearby CCTV picked him up leaving the area, still wearing the same clothes. He was picked out by the victim and his DNA was found on her. Despite this, he continued to deny the offences, but changed his pleas to guilty, eventually admitting two counts of sexual assault and making threats to kill.
The court heard that Belsham, formerly of Ferrybridge Road, Knottingley, also admitted indecently exposing himself to two females on separate dates in June 2021, first dropping his trousers and masturbating in front of a female jogger, and then a 14-year-old girl two days later. They both happened on a towpath next to the River Calder at Ferrybridge.
He has more than 20 previous convictions, including many for violence.
Judge Simon Batiste jailed him for seven years, with a three-year extended licence period and put on the sex offender register for life. Referring to the sexual assaults, he said: “It’s clear you followed her for some distance. It’s evident the impact it’s had on her and will have life-long profound effects.”
Speaking outside court, Detective Inspector Rachel Darling from Wakefield District Safeguarding Unit said: “I would like to praise the victim for her bravery in coming forward to report the offences to police.
“She was subjected to a frightening and horrendous ordeal, but now I hope the sentence Belsham received will allow her some closure to what has happened.”
“I would also like to praise the tenacity of the investigation team here in Wakefield who worked diligently to ensure Belsham was brought to justice.”
Speaking after the sentencing, Belsham’s victim, said: “I cannot fault the support and kindness that I have received from the police from the date this happened. Everything that the officer in the case has done for me is greatly appreciated.
“I have waited for this day for seven months and I feel I can begin again now and move on. I will not allow that man to destroy my life.”