A robbery victim has described the moment a complete stranger crept into the back seat of her car while she was stuck in traffic like ‘a scene from a horror movie’.
Nottinghamshire Police has issued dramatic CCTV footage of the brazen man crossing the street in Nottingham city centre, then opening the victim’s back door and jumping in as the vehicle moved off at traffic lights.
The man crouched down behind the woman’s seat, before she spotted him in her rear-view mirror, making her scream out in distress.
The man was Steven Partington – who had woken lost and confused in Nottingham city centre following a drink and drugs binge shortly after being released from police custody in Mansfield.
He told her to ‘stay calm’ and ‘drive’ as he sat in the foot-well, before he grabbed the gear stick.
She tried to alert pedestrians by beeping her car horn and banging on her window to try and catch the eye of other drivers during her frightening ordeal.
The 40-year-old, who didn’t wish to be named, had been doing errands in Castle Marina Retail Park, picking up birthday presents and cake for her friends and husband, before making her journey through the city centre.
She said: “I was in my car listening to the radio and suddenly I felt a movement in the car. I just thought it was something falling over in the boot. My brain was racing, thinking of what it could have been, I hadn’t turned sharply or anything.
“I just had a quick glance into the mirror and there he was. I instantly screamed out. It was like a scene from a horror movie. His face appeared. I can’t explain how I felt. He just popped up from a crouching position. Suddenly I wasn’t alone in the car.
“Then I thought was this a mistake, did he think I was a taxi? Was it all a misunderstanding? He wasn’t talkative, he wasn’t chatty. All he said to me was ‘stay calm’. He wasn’t panicky or aggressive.
“At that point I had no idea what his intentions were. Was he dangerous? What does he want from me? Does he have a weapon on him? Is he a rapist? Is he going to want me to go somewhere?”
The woman said that after she came out of the initial shock she tried to appeal for help.
She said: “I now had to think clearer and how could I get him out of the car. I thought I had to alert someone in the city centre and felt a bit calmer that there were people out and about.
“I began beeping my horn and banging on the windows to anyone around, but no one really paid much attention. He just told me to ‘drive’ and I decided to turn down a side street, where I thought there might be more people, but my heart-sank… it was deserted. I was alone.
“He then began feeling around, touching the arm-rest and then he touched my sleeve. That really freaked me out. I tried to lean out the window and keep away from him. I felt completely helpless. I should be in control in my own car.
“He then grabbed my handbag and he got out the car. Just like that, it was over. It only lasted a few minutes, but to me it felt like a lifetime. I immediately locked myself in, drove home and rang the police.”
Investigation to track down mystery man
Officers immediately started their investigation to track down the mystery man, looking for city centre CCTV footage and interviewing the victim.
The biggest breakthrough in the case came three days after the incident when a member of the public found the woman’s stolen bag at a city centre car park in Perth Street.
Crucially, alongside the victim’s property, was a green coat containing bail paperwork in the name of Steven Partington which had been issued earlier that morning, after he had spent a night in the cells after being arrested on suspicion of being drunk and disorderly in Sutton Road in Mansfield on 6 November.
CCTV footage from Mansfield police station custody suite showed Partington collecting the same green coat from his property for that separate incident.
Officers examined further footage to trace Partington’s movements from Mansfield to Nottingham by train. Footage from a bus immediately before the incident showed him wearing the coat and walking in Nottingham city centre.
Detectives were able to follow Partington through the city until CCTV showed him entering the victim’s car in at the junction of Cranbrook Street and Lower Parliament Street.
Further footage from later that day had one key difference, the absence of Partington’s green coat, which was abandoned with the victim’s items in the car park.
He was arrested on 22 November 2020 and charged, before being remanded into custody.
The terrified woman positively identified the offender in an identification process.
Partington, 44, of no fixed address, appeared at Nottingham Crown Court on Wednesday, 16 June having pleaded guilty to robbery in January. He was sentenced to four years’ and eight months imprisonment.
Leading up to the incident Partington been drinking and using drugs, waking up at various locations during excessive use. He wasn’t familiar with Nottingham and couldn’t recall his movements on 7 November 2020 after he had been released from Mansfield custody suite.
Praise for the force
The woman praised officers who led the investigation. She said: “I was constantly updated by the police throughout. The way the whole thing was handled was hugely professional. I think it only hit me afterwards the seriousness of it all, when the shock had died down.
“The police came to my house and they were incredibly reassuring. They showed a lot of empathy.
“I had a number of friends and family contact me, having heard about the incident, but also a lot of female drivers.
“When the arrest came in, I felt so relieved. I can’t fault the force’s robbery team.
“It really affected me, I didn’t want to leave the home. I was so anxious, I didn’t want to be alone or go anywhere, but as I had heard that he had been arrested I felt calmer and safer straight away.
“This sentencing will give me closure, it will draw a line under it all. I feel I can move on now, it’s been a really scary period of my life.”
Detective Constable Richard Evans, of Nottinghamshire Police, led the complex investigation. He commended the victim’s bravery throughout the investigation.
He said: “This was a particularly harrowing and a very alarming incident, which initially left the victim traumatised.
“She was extremely frightened and did not know what Partington’s intentions were. Officers supported the woman who was clearly distressed. Thankfully she didn’t suffer any injuries.
“Following a hugely detailed investigation, which focussed on hours of CCTV footage from Nottingham and Mansfield, we were able to trace Partington’s movements.
“We’d like to thank the member of the public who recovered the victim’s items, along with Partington’s coat, which was crucial to solve the case.
“The investigation was led by the city dedicated robbery team but to bring matters to a successful conclusion we received support from officers and staff across the force. I’d like to thank everyone who contributed including Derbyshire Constabulary and British Transport Police. Our approach required methodically gathering the evidence and we ensured that no stone was left unturned.
“I’d also like to acknowledge and commend the bravery of the victim who has been supportive throughout. By coming forward and helping the investigation, it has meant that Partington is now behind bars.
“We hope this sentence gives her some closure finally after months of anxiety.”