A FATHER-OF-THREE pleasured himself for three hours on a riverside bench in Chester while wearing women’s underwear, a court heard.

John Russell Leathwaite, 45, was observed several times by a cyclist on the promenade at New Crane Bank, not far from the sewage works, on May 29 this year.

When a police officer finally challenged him at around 8.45pm he was found to have a porn magazine and half a tub of Vaseline.

He initially claimed he had just been “going for a wee” but later admitted he had been masturbating and pleaded guilty to committing an act outraging public decency.

Appearing sheepish in the dock at Chester Magistrates Court on Thursday (July 11), Leathwaite, of Cherry Gardens in Boughton, was sentenced to a two-year community order.

Outlining the case, prosecutor Rob Youds said a cyclist had first spotted the defendant at around 5.45pm as he was travelling back from Aldi along the riverside path.

He could see a female jogger ahead and then noticed a man on a bench scrutinising her closely as she passed.

The witness returned home but later at around 7.10pm set out again on his bike towards the Greyhound Retail Park.

The defendant was still on the bench and appeared “flustered” as the cyclist approached.

“He was trying to cover up his bottom half,” Mr Youds told the court. “He had a pornographic magazine out.”

On the man’s return journey at 7.45pm Leathwaite was still there and tried to conceal something in his lap.

The witness said in his statement: “He was nervous. I think this time he knew I had blown his cover. I didn’t see his penis because he managed to conceal it but I’m sure he was masturbating.”

Mr Youds said the cyclist felt so strongly about what he had witnessed that he decided to call the police.

An officer attended the scene at 8.45pm and spotted the defendant sitting on the bench, close to the MOT centre.

“Although he was sitting down his trousers were down exposing his rear,” Mr Youds said. “He was fumbling with some items.

“He was found to be wearing a small pair of women’s underwear and his penis was exposed. He had a pornographic magazine, deodorant, a lighter and half a tub of Vaseline.”

In his police interview, Leathwaite initially claimed he had been “spiked with amphetamine” earlier that day by a friend, but soon changed his story and admitted what he had done.

“He said it was a moment of madness and he had learnt his lesson,” Mr Youds said.

Defending, Richard Sibeon stressed his client was a family man who worked hard and had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.

He also pointed out that the stretch of river where the offence took place was “fairly isolated” and Leathwaite had not targeted anyone.

The defendant has four previous convictions for seven offences but had been out of trouble for a number of years.

While describing the defendant’s actions as “deviant behaviour”, magistrates chose not to impose a custodial sentence for the sake of Leathwaite’s family.

As part of his community order he must undertake 20 days of rehabilitation activity and abide by a 7pm to 5am curfew every day for 12 weeks. He was also ordered to pay £85 court costs and an £85 victim surcharge.