A MAN who attempted to rape a young woman at knifepoint in a park at night has been jailed for seven years.

Gareth Burke, 24, was sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court today, Friday, for the attack on the 19-year-old in Huyton in January 2014.

Burke, of Thompson Street, St Helens, was arrested attempting to board a cross-channel ferry after police had identified him as a potential suspect.

He pleaded guilty to attempted rape, assault and possession of an offensive weapon at an earlier hearing.

He will serve a seven year custodial sentence and a further three years on extended licence.

The victim was walking on a footpath through Jubilee Park, Huyton, at 11.30pm on Monday, January 13, when Burke approached her from behind, armed with a large knife.

He held the knife to her side and forced her on to grass where she suffered serious sexual assault.

The victim resisted and during the struggle, Burke's knife was bent and fell on to the ground.

As a result of enquiries, officers established that Burke had initially seen his victim as he was driving a Vauxhall Astra along Huyton Hey Road.

He did a u-turn, parked the car, then followed her, before attacking her.

Detective Sergeant Paul Donaghy, from the force's specialist Unity team, said: "Burke followed his victim with the sole intention of sexually assaulting her.

"He put her through an horrific ordeal which I am sure will stay with her for the rest of her life.

"Officers spent numerous hours trawling through CCTV looking for images of the offender or the car he was driving. We also visited the owners of Vauxhall Astras across Merseyside.

"As a result of one of these visits, Gareth Burke was identified as a possible suspect. His DNA was found to match forensic evidence at the scene and he was arrested a short time later attempting to board a cross-channel ferry.

"I hope today's sentence will provide some form of resolution for the victim and allow her to move on with her life.

"She has shown bravery and a remarkable strength of character throughout, from struggling with Burke on the night of the attack through to supporting the criminal justice process over the last five months.

"We have worked with our partners, the Crown Prosecution Service and independent sexual violence advisers to make sure the best possible case was presented and I would like to thank them for their support and also praise the hard work and dedication of officers in this case.

"I would also like to take this opportunity to assure victims of sexual violence that we take every allegation that we receive extremely seriously.

"The force has trained specialist officers in the Unity Team, part of the Matrix Serious Organised Crime Investigation Wing, who will take the time to listen to victims and treat them with both dignity and respect.

"Officers and independent support workers will be there to provide support throughout the criminal justice process if victims can find the courage to come forward and tell us what has happened to them."