Published: 11:33, 07 July 2021
| Updated: 20:03, 12 July 2021
A thug with HIV sank his teeth into a girl's face and drew blood in a “nightmarish” attack in Canterbury city centre.
James Gichigi’s victim, who was unknown to him, was left wrought with anxiety awaiting test results after requiring emergency medication.
The traumatised girl has since tested negative for the disease, and 54-year-old Gichigi is now behind bars after being jailed on Friday.
Canterbury Crown Court was told how a drunken Gichigi pestered his victim and her friend in St George’s Street in the early hours of the morning.
When they shunned his advances he lashed out by grabbing them, kissing one on the forehead and clinching the other in a bear hug.
As she screamed for help he bit her face, drawing blood, before unleashing a volley of expletives.
“The difficulty for her is that he is HIV positive,” barrister Liam Gatward explained.
She told officers shortly after the attack: “I have previously been sexually assaulted, and the way he grabbed me brought the trauma back up.
“I’m now worried I might have contracted the disease.”
The “terrifying and nasty” ordeal left Gichigi's victim “extremely worried” she had contracted HIV, Judge Rupert Lowe said.
“That was a really nasty and terrifying thing to do to a young woman at night; really the worst sort of nightmare for a young woman to have to go through in the street, which she will never forget," he added.
“What made these offences particularly serious is you were, and you knew you were, HIV positive, and later these two young ladies had to be informed you were HIV positive.
“Your victim was extremely worried because you had drawn blood from her cheek after biting her hard with your teeth.
“And she had to go to the doctor and receive emergency medication in case there was transmission, which caused her significant worry.”
Following the attack in April 2019, the police and the crown prosecution service would allow Gichigi to “wander around freely” for a year before his arrest for a separate offence.
In April 2020 he attempted to set fire to a makeshift bedsit he rented out at the bottom of his garden - while a tenant was still inside.
Gichigi shouted to Scott Hancock “I’m going to burn you out” while pouring petrol at the foot of the front door.
"Your victim was extremely worried because you had drawn blood from her cheek after biting her hard with your teeth..."
He then ignited a piece of paper and dropped it on the floor, but luckily missed the fuel.
Police had already been called and Gichigi was arrested, still poised with a lighter.
“I’m going to kill this guy because he’s living in my house,” he confessed in a police interview.
Gichigi, of Cockering Road in Thanington, appeared for sentencing via videolink from HMP Elmley, with friends and family supporting him in the public gallery.
Mitigating, Nicholas Hamblin said Gichigi suffered long-standing issues with alcohol and was heavily intoxicated during the attacks.
“He is very apologetic, deeply embarrassed and recognises the upset and fear caused by the actual bodily harm,” he added.
At a hearing earlier this year, Gichigi pleaded guilty to attempted arson with intent to endanger life, causing actual bodily harm to the girl he bit, and sexually assaulting her friend.
He also pleaded guilty to assaulting an emergency worker after he kicked a police constable called to the city centre attack.
He was jailed for four years and seven months on Friday.
Kat Smithson, director of Policy at National AIDS Trust, said: “We want to reassure readers that biting is not considered an HIV risk. Victims of assault should be reassured so that further distress is not caused to them related to misconceptions about HIV risk. Any potential cases of biting resulting in HIV transmission are historical (before effective treatments), involving very extreme circumstances. The majority of people living with HIV in the UK are on effective treatment which means they can’t pass on the virus at all, but even without treatment risk from biting is entirely negligible.”