December 2021

Convicted dangerous Exeter sex attacker found dead in prison cell

Convicted Exeter sex attacker Luke Prato – who drag a terrified woman into a park while telling her he intended to have sex with her – has been found dead in his prison cell.

The 25-year-old, who had a history of random acts of violence against strangers, was jailed for four years in March 2020, with a two year extended licence and was classified as a dangerous offender.

Mr Prato, of Grendon Road, had been transferred from Exeter Prison to HMP Isle of Wight, where he died on November 27.

It is believed he was awaiting a transfer to Broadmoor Secure Hospital due to his mental health. An inquest will be held into his death at a later date.

A prison service spokesperson said: “HMP Isle of Wight prisoner Luke Prato died on November 27. The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman has been informed.”

Mr Prato was described as ‘every young woman’s worst nightmare’ at Exeter Crown Court last year. He was convicted of sexual assault on the woman and causing actual bodily harm to her male friend at a trial in January 2020.

He had tried to ‘chat up’ the 21-year-old victim on the dance floor of Exeter’s Angel pub earlier in the evening but she told him to leave her alone.

He saw her walking home with a friend a couple of hours later and shadowed them through the streets of the city before attacking them both at the entrance to Belmont Park at 3am.

He set on the man first and once he had backed off he launched a sexual attack. He told the terrified victim, ‘I want you right now’, and said he was going to have sex with her in the park as he thrust his hand up her skirt and groped her.

He grabbed her around the throat and tried to drag her into the park and fought off her friend when he tried to stop him, knocking him to the ground so violently he suffered a gash to his head.

The woman managed to escape and run across the road to try to seek refuge in a house but in the time it took for her to wake the owner, Prato followed her and attacked her again.

He was trying to drag her back towards the park with his hands around her throat when the householder opened her door and rushed out to rescue her.

He fled the scene before police arrived but they tracked him down to his bedsit nearby. Forensic evidence and CCTV from the Angel showed he was the attacker. More footage showed him shadowing the victim from Sidwell Street to the park.

Mr Prato told police initially he was not the attacker but changed his story in court and said he was attacked by the two victims.