Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Southampton students warned over series of sex attacks

Students are being warned after a series of sex attacks on young women walking alone in Southampton.

In 12 cases similar descriptions have been given of the attacker and detectives are keeping an open mind over whether some of them are linked.

The latest victim, 20, was sexually assaulted. Days earlier, three other women were attacked in nine-hours.

Southampton University is encouraging female students to join a scheme which provides taxis paid for on account.

The most recent attack took place in St Denys Road on 8 March.

The victim was grabbed from behind and pushed to the ground by a man in an alleyway.

He threatened her saying he had a knife, then sexually assaulted her before fleeing as he heard voices approaching.

'Severely traumatised'

The victim described her attacker as 5ft 8in but said his face was covered. He spoke with, what is described as a foreign accent and was wearing a leather or hard material black jacket.

Det Sgt Tom Orchard said: "This is a distressing offence for anyone to endure and has, understandably, left this woman severely traumatised.

"We would also like to remind anyone walking alone, especially at night, to be constantly aware of their surroundings and to contact us immediately to report anything or anyone they consider to be suspicious."

Three lone women were indecently assaulted as they walked in the city between 22:00 GMT on 28 February and 07:00 on 29 February.

The assaults occurred in Banister Road, Governor Road, and in the city centre close to the Matalan store.

All three victims gave similar descriptions.

The woman who was assaulted in Banister Road believes her attacker held a knife against her.

'Personal safety'

A number of attacks occurred between late Tuesday evening and early Wednesday morning, which is one of the city's most popular student nights, but police have not confirmed the same person is responsible.

Speaking after the attack on 8 March, Det Sgt Tom Orchard added: "We are keeping an open mind about this assault and are unable to say whether it is linked to other recent incidents of indecent assault against women in Southampton."

A University of Southampton spokesman said all issues regarding student safety are treated with "utmost importance" so students are being reminded of appropriate measures to ensure their safety.

"In light of recent incidents which have occurred within the city, we have taken proactive steps to remind students about personal safety issues through a variety of means," he said.

A Southampton Rape Crisis spokeswoman said: "We understand that when there are reports of this nature within our local community it can cause increased anxiety.

"We would want to encourage people to give thought, as much as they can, to how they might take care of themselves and each other.

"For example, when planning nights out, having arrangements for how to get home, sticking with a trusted group of friends and keeping alcohol intake low can help keep people safer."

Anyone with information is asked to contact Hampshire Constabulary.

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