A CROSS-dressing sex attacker from Tiverton has been jailed indefinitely after assaulting a pensioner in a public toilet.
Mark Lazarus has an obsession with women's clothes and put on a skirt and tights before committing his offences.
He was jailed after carrying out a terrifying attack on the lady in a public toilet where he waited for an hour until someone wearing a skirt went in.
He followed her in, changed into his skirt and tights in a neighbouring cubicle and pounced on her as she washed her hands.
The petrified 71-year-old needed medical treatment for shock after heavily-built Lazarus seized her and dragged her into a cubicle where he tried to have sex with her.
She was saved from the ordeal because she screamed for help and Lazarus fled, still wearing his skirt, and was seized by a passer-by who made a citizen's arrest.
Lazarus, 39, had an obsession with skirts and has convictions for two previous sexual offences, both of which took place on the banks of the Exe in Tiverton in July 1999.
On both occasions he dressed as a schoolgirl and followed young girls along the towpath, assaulting an 11-year-old and exposing himself to others.
He was rated as extremely dangerous in risk assessments carried out by a psychiatrist and probation officer and highly likely to commit further attacks.
Lazarus, who moved to a hostel in Howell Road, Exeter, before his latest crime, admitted attempted rape and was jailed indefinitely by Judge Phillip Wassall at Exeter Crown Court last week. He was told he could not apply for parole for at least four years.
The judge told him: "If this lady of 71 had not resisted, you would have carried on and raped her. She received severe psychological trauma and now needs counselling.
"You have a predilection for dressing in skirts and that is exactly what you did when you went out looking for sexual stimulation and intending to commit a sexual offence.
"You saw this lady entering the toilet and you were attracted to her because she was wearing a skirt. You thought 'skirt' to yourself and that triggered this violent sexual attack.
"She was a vulnerable lady in a public situation and you attacked her for your sexual gratification. It was only because she fought you off and made so much noise and commotion that you stopped and fled.
"The public-minded citizen who grabbed and tackled you and held on to you deserves commendation. This attack was cunning and conceived and but for her perseverance you would have completed the offence.
"You are in my view extremely dangerous. You are likely to reoffend with potentially incalculable consequences for the public."
"Your risk of reoffending increases when you cross dress. This offence highlights your fascination with skirts. It seems that anyone of any age, from schoolgirls right up to ladies of this age, are at risk."
Sean Brunton, prosecuting, said the attack took place in February when Lazarus took a train to Teignmouth with a skirt and tights on under his clothing and waited outside the toilet block until a suitable victim entered.
He followed her in, stripped off to his skirt and tights, and attacked her as she washed her hands.
Lazarus was held by passer-by Sean Pope, who saw him fleeing the toilets in a skirt and tights and seized him, holding him until police arrived.
William Parkhill, defending, said Lazarus deserved credit for being totally candid to both the police and probation about the extent of his sexual obsessions.
He said that while reports currently rate him as extremely dangerous, it is possible he could benefit from many years of psychiatric treatment in prison.