WARNING: DISTRESSING CONTENT
An AFL district player grabbed a nurse as she was walking to work in the early morning, dragged her into an alleyway, pinned her on her back and covered her mouth as she screamed.
The 39-year-old victim, who was on her way to work at a Melbourne hospital, was only able to escape her attacker after a New Zealand police officer on holiday with his family heard her screams and ran to help her.
But, on Tuesday, a judge found Jackson Williams not guilty of intending to commit a sexual offence.
The 21-year-old was found guilty in the County Court of Victoria of assaulting a stranger on the morning of October 28, 2018 – captured in its entirety on CCTV.
He was found not guilty of his second charge, with judge Mandy Fox finding Williams' state of mind at the time could not be proven.
"He did not say or do anything consistent with robbery, but nor did he say or do anything consistent with an intent to commit a sexual assault," she said.
She said the Westmeadows Tigers player's attack lasted 37 seconds, from the time he grabbed the victim by the neck from behind and pulled her into an alley to when the off-duty Kiwi cop heard the woman screaming and ran to help.
The woman's headphones were knocked out and her glasses fell on the ground during the attack, which started when Williams suddenly jumped up from the step where he was smoking, put her in a headlock and forced her from Little Lonsdale Street into Brights Place.
She stumbled over and he pressed his body onto her and covered her mouth as she attempted to free herself, Judge Fox said.
The victim told the court Williams was "really strong".
"She tried to fight and grab him and push him away," Judge Fox said.
"She was really frightened and scared.
"Her body was lying on the ground, her face was up, and she kept screaming."
The New Zealand officer, who was staying in Melbourne on a family holiday, happened to walk past, heading with his partner and two young children to catch an early bus to Phillip Island.
He handed his daughter, who was in a backpack on his back, to his partner and ran into the alley, shouting "oi!", the court heard.
The CCTV footage shows Williams looking up and then jogging away into nearby Healeys Lane.
He later told police he got home about 7am and went to bed.
Australian media have identified the police officer as Adrian Woodgate.
"I didn't know what was occurring but I wasn't happy with it," Woodgate told AAP.
"It was just after 6am and there was no one around ... I could hear screaming coming from one person."
Williams had told the court he spent the night at nightclubs in Essendon and the CBD, and told police he had been drunk and couldn't remember the attack.
Prosecutor Stephanie Clancy argued Williams could not be seen in the CCTV footage trying take the victim's backpack or her mobile phone, and he did not make any threats or demands.
"When a man pulls a woman off the street and into a deserted laneway … it strains credulity to think he could have any other purpose except a sexual one," she said.
But Judge Fox agreed with the defence that he also could not be seen trying to touch the victim in a sexual manner or trying to remove either of their clothing.
"There is no direct evidence as to the accused's state of mind," she said.
"I must not guess, speculate or jump to conclusions."
Williams remained on the Westmeadows Tigers line-up – part of the Essendon District Football League – as of 2019, with the 2020 season suspended due to Covid-19.
His trial was judge alone rather than being before a jury.
Williams had pleaded guilty to assault but Judge Fox ordered the charge also proceed to trial along with intent to commit a sexual offence, to which he had pleaded not guilty.
He will be sentenced at a later date.