A SEX attacker convicted of raping a vulnerable woman and then threatening her with a pitchfork has died in prison.
Hartlepool man James Pounder died while serving a seven-year jail term at Holme House Prison in Stockton.
The Prison Service says the 46-year-old died of suspected natural causes on Monday.
The Mail reported in July last year that Pounder, of Bruce Crescent, West View, was locked up after a Teesside Crown Court jury found him guilty of forcing his victim to perform a sex act on him.
The court had heard that as the woman fled after the attack, Pounder threatened he would use a garden fork on anyone she told about what he had done.
She was found crying in the street in a dishevelled state by a number of good Samaritans who called the police, leading to Pounder’s arrest.
He denied the crime and claimed the woman offered to perform a sex act on him for £20. But he was found guilty of rape after a week-long trial.
The jury acquitted him of a second rape charge when it was alleged he had sex with the woman against her wishes while she was pinned down on a sofa.
The woman told police how she had been attacked by Pounder after she met him outside some shops in Hartlepool and agreed to go to a flat with him for a drink.
Once inside he started making lewd comments about wanting to sleep with her before he dragged her to a bedroom and committed the rape.
Afterwards Pounder threatened to attack her with a garden fork if she told anyone.
“He said ‘bring anyone to this house I’m warning you, you will get this’.”, the woman had told the court during the trial.
The jury took just four hours to return their unanimous verdicts.
In sentencing, Recorder Graham Hyland said the offence was aggravated as the victim was in a vulnerable state from drink and because Pounder threatened her with the pitchfork.
He said because of that the sentence increased from five to seven years.
A Prison Service spokesman said: “HMP Holme House prisoner James Pounder died on Monday, December 29, 2013, of suspected natural causes.
“As with all deaths in custody, the Independent Prisons and Probation Ombudsman will conduct an investigation.”