Exmouth woman said she believed she would die after being 'strangled in her sleep' by home intruder

PUBLISHED: 15:52 28 March 2019 | UPDATED: 16:04 28 March 2019

Jenny Rustell, who said she woke up in her Exmouth home to being strangled by an unknown assailant. Picture: Jenny Rustell

Jenny Rustell, who said she woke up in her Exmouth home to being strangled by an unknown assailant. Picture: Jenny Rustell

Archant

An Exmouth woman has told of the terrifying moment she woke up to find a man strangling her in her own bedroom.

Devon and Cornwall Police have released an e-fit image of a man they would like to speak to in connection with an attempted assault. Picture: Devon and Cornwall PoliceDevon and Cornwall Police have released an e-fit image of a man they would like to speak to in connection with an attempted assault. Picture: Devon and Cornwall Police

Jenny Rustell said she thought she was going to die as she battled the push the unknown assailant off her, on the morning of March 24.

Mrs Rustell, 46, recalled how the man ‘glared’ at her with ‘pure hatred’ as he squeezed his hands tightly around her throat.

If it had not been for the quick thinking of her partner, Franceso Niccoli, who tackled the man, Mrs Rustell believes she would have died in the attack.

Police have issued an e-fit of the man they would like to speak to following the incident.

The male suspect is described as between 35 and 45 years old and of slim build. He is described as wearing a puffer jacket, dark red or purple in colour, and blue jeans. He was also wearing glasses.

Investigating officer detective sergeant Lucy Skinner said: “Anyone who saw a man matching the description below in Liverton Close or the wider Exmouth area on Saturday or Sunday is asked to contact police.

“This is currently being treated as an isolated incident and the victim, supported by specialist officers, has created an e-fit image.

Anyone who recognises the image, or the description above, is asked to contact police on 101 quoting CR/025901/19.

Mrs Rustell said: “Francesco came in at about 12.10am and we went to sleep.

“Around 3am, I was dreaming that I could not breathe. I woke up and realised I still could not breathe.

“I sort of opened my eyes and there was a man there in front of me, staring at me while he was strangling me.”

Mrs Rustell, who works as a chef at Exmouth Pavilion, said she was powerless to fight as she gulped for air.

“I did not know what was going on,” she said. “I tried to push him off me, but was struggling.”

Luckily for Mrs Rustell, the incident roused Mr Nicolli, who sprung into action and tackled the man.

After falling to the floor and hitting their bedroom wall, the attacker exited the bedroom and ‘stumbled’ down the stairs before fleeing into the night.

The incident lasted just two minutes, but Mrs Rustell said it felt much longer.

“I did not recognise him,” she said. “It has left me feeling very shaken up and angry because he has made me not feel like me.

“This has destroyed my self confidence. I was completely petrified – I have never been so scared in my life.”

Mrs Rustell admitted her front door was unlocked before the attack, but said any incident like that should not have happened regardless.

“If Francesco had not been there, I do not think I would be here today,” she said.

Mrs Rustell said she is still haunted by the whites of the man’s eyes.

“I think he was under the influence drugs,” she said. “He was just staring at me.”

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