The time on the CCTV footage reads just before 3am, but judging by the crowds hurrying on to the single-decker bus it could just as easily be rush hour.
Dozens of young men and women can be seen barging past each other, desperate to secure a seat for the ride home from Nottingham city centre.
It is a bitterly cold night last December, with temperatures five degrees below freezing, but the mood among the travellers is festive. Yet, tragically, the spirit of goodwill is in short supply. For eight long minutes, according to the film, passengers callously ignore the plight of a young dark-haired woman, standing beside the driver.
The 22-year-old law student has been out drinking with friends and hopes to catch a Pronto night bus home to her parents who live only 20 minutes away. It is a route she has often used. The increasingly anxious young woman, who is just 20p short on the £5 fare, asks him if he will wait while she visits a cash machine.
Her plea falls on deaf ears. So she asks him if she can pay the money next time or, failing that, when she meets her mother at the other end.
As she rifles through her coat pockets, she is seen looking pleadingly as other passengers pour past her, clearly hoping that someone will step in to offer the 20p she needs.
But they don’t and the driver orders her off the bus. What happened next should haunt him and the other passengers for ever because, on the other side of the city’s Forest Recreation Ground, 19-year-old Joseph Moran was also making his way home.
Drunk on lager and Bacardi and high on cannabis, he had been released from a young offenders’ institution in the spring of that year, after serving half of an eight-month sentence for burglary and other matters.
Frustrated and angry that he could not raise his girlfriend on the telephone, he spotted his victim walking towards him. Less than half an hour after she had been turfed off the bus, Moran viciously attacked the young student. He grabbed her by the neck and dragged her into the recreation ground.
He raped her, subjecting her to a beating so savage that even her own mother – who, in an unbearable twist, stumbled across the scene – did not recognise her.
Moran placed his head in his hands yesterday as the jury at Nottingham Crown Court found him guilty.
The victim, described as popular and from a loving, religious family, did not attend court because she was sitting exams.
She had also taken exams on the day of the attack, after which she travelled into Nottingham to attend a Christmas fair and have a celebratory lunch with friends. She returned to the city centre that evening, ending up in a nightclub before making plans to get home. But the bus driver put a stop to that.
‘I was counting out how much money I had,’ she would later tell police. ‘I remember being 20p short – it might have been a bit more or less than that. I remember having a conversation with the bus driver. I said I was short and asked if I could get on anyway and he said No.
‘I remember having a gross sense of injustice that he wouldn’t let me on.’
Of course, bus companies face a constant battle against fare dodgers. But here was a young woman, alone, in the small hours, with the majority of the fare in her hand, offering to phone her mother and arrange to pay the shortfall when she reached her destination.
Instead she was abandoned alone on a freezing night to find another way home. ‘What happened that night was a truly shocking incident,’ says Alex Hornby, commercial director of the bus company Trent Barton which owns Pronto Bus.
‘Immediately after the incident, a full and detailed investigation was launched.’
What that investigation found is not clear and when approached by the Mail last week, drivers with the company were determined to shield the identity of their colleague.
‘You won’t get a word out of us,’ said one official. ‘Lies have been said in court and we are not commenting on what our driver may or may not have done. The papers say the passenger was thrown off the bus. We think otherwise.’ Detective Chief Inspector Rob Griffin, who led the investigation into the attack, told the Mail that police did speak to the bus driver, but his actions did not breach any laws.
That might be so. But morally, his actions raise clear questions.
‘It was a stupid, ridiculous thing to do and he must have it on his conscience,’ a driver with a rival firm told the Mail. ‘None of our drivers would have done that.’
The young student will be paying the price for his actions for the rest of her life. That night, after being forced off the bus, she phoned her mother and asked for a lift.
‘The mother had suggested to her daughter that she start walking out of the city along the road she would be driving in on, so they wouldn’t miss each other,’ says Mr Griffin. ‘That’s exactly what the victim did.’
It was a main thoroughfare, not a dark side street and the victim, who was even carrying a torch provided by the charity Victim Support for Students, must have thought she was safe. She was last seen on CCTV at 3.27am.
Police estimate it was four minutes later when Moran dragged her from the pavement into a muddy patch covered by hedges and rose bushes which offered some protection from the glare of passing headlights.
By the time her mother drove past the spot, her daughter was already being raped and beaten. After reaching the city centre and finding no trace of the girl, she called her mobile phone twice, only to hear a grunting noise before it went dead.
The mother began slowly scouring the streets, attracting the attention of a passing police car. By an astonishing coincidence, she was intercepted yards from the spot where her daughter was being attacked.
The noise and lights of the cars startled Moran. Covered in mud as well as his victim’s blood, he was terrified that he would be caught. His only option was to pretend that someone else had attacked the girl and he had stumbled across her as he walked home. Her mother was sitting in the police car with a male officer when Moran banged on the roof saying: ‘You had better come quick. I think a girl has been raped or something’.
Both the woman and the policeman went to see the victim, naked, beaten, covered in blood and mud.
Incredibly, the girl was in such a shocking state that her own mother didn’t recognise her. Frantic with worry, she left the crime scene to continue searching for her daughter, and was at the police station reporting her missing when she received a call from the officer saying that the victim was in fact her own flesh and blood. Police had found items with her name on.
‘The levels of violence in this attack were extreme which made it even more shocking,’ says Mr Griffin. ‘Unimaginable is the only word for it.’
What would have happened to the girl if her mother and the police had not pulled up at that moment? Would she have died? Mr Griffin is in little doubt. ‘The victim wouldn’t have had a chance in the sub-zero temperatures that night,’ he says.
Police did not believe Moran’s story from the start. He was arrested at the scene and driven to the police station. There he was found to have the girl’s blood on his boxer shorts, while he had left her keys and purse in the back of the police car.
Described in court as a ‘dangerous and violent predator’, he had lived until about a year before the attack in a red-brick terrace council house with his single mother Sarah, in the rough neighbourhood of Sneinton.
More recently he had been living with his grandmother, Linda, a short distance away.
Moran, a self-confessed repeat car thief and drug user, muttered his way through giving evidence, peppering his monosyllabic answers with ‘innit’ and ‘yeh’. A young neighbour told the Mail he was a troublemaker who was ‘always high on weed and really rough’.
Another neighbour laid blame for Moran’s troubled teenage years firmly at the door of his mother. ‘With a mum like her, Joseph never stood a chance in life,’ she said. ‘When she comes outside she has a can of beer in her hand. One minute she can be pleasant and friendly, the next she wants nothing to do with you. I don’t think she could cope with looking after her son and he went off to live with his gran. It’s all a bit sad.’
The Morans and friends, who gathered each day in court, were an intimidating presence. When the verdict was delivered, they reacted with tears and fury, one young woman snarling ‘I hope you can f****** sleep at night’ at the jury.
On the night of the attack, Moran had already taken a friend’s car without permission (he claimed he wanted to buy more alcohol and cigarettes) and crashed it, climbing out of the shattered window and fleeing the scene.
When that friend later discovered Moran’s actions, the two young men fought in the street. Police were still investigating the crash scene when Moran, still brimming with rage, decided to head to his mother’s house. Phone records indicate that in the 23 minutes before 3.30am he made 25 phone calls, all unanswered, to his girlfriend Geraldine.
At 3.30am, the calls stopped. It was the moment he encountered his victim.
‘Obviously she was physically injured and has undergone extensive surgery to repair the physical damage she suffered and there has been the emotional trauma caused by the attack,’ says Mr Griffin. ‘But she is an extremely brave young woman who has very firm ideas about what she wants to achieve in life and has not allowed this mindless attack to interfere with that.
‘She’s been able, with the support and help of her family, who have been brilliant, to continue with what she has been doing.
‘Everyone who has worked on this inquiry and been involved in these court proceedings has been humbled by her bravery and fortitude.’
With the support of her close-knit family and her determination to excel at her studies, one can only hope that the victim’s future is not marred by the coincidences that led her into the path of Joseph Moran.
And while they can in no way be held ultimately responsible for what occurred that night, Mr Griffin said of the other passengers: ‘It’s difficult to speak for those people. We each make our own judgments and the people on that bus made their judgments that night. Knowing what they know now, they may wish they had given 20 pence.’