Gloucestershire Police warn after stranger sex attacks
Women in Gloucestershire are being warned to avoid walking alone in the dark after police began investigating similarities between three sex attacks.
The three incidents - in Gloucester, Cheltenham and Innsworth - saw women targeted by strangers in public places such as parks in a six-month period.
In two of the cases, the offender wore a balaclava during the attacks on women aged 16, 18 and 20.
Police said they could not rule out that the same person was responsible.
In the first attack, in the Hester's Way area of Cheltenham in November 2011, a 16-year-old girl was grabbed by a man in the Welch Road playing field before being sexually assaulted.
In January 2012, a 16-year-old girl was walking near the A40 in Innsworth when she was approached by a man who indecently assaulted her and stole her phone.
Then in May, a 20-year-old woman was attacked in grassland close to the Clock Tower building in the Abbeymeads area of Gloucester. She was subjected to a serious sexual assault.
A 48-year-old man, arrested over the attack in Gloucester, has since been released on bail.
Det Sgt Angela Middlewood said attacks such as the ones being investigated were "relatively rare in Gloucestershire".
"We are investigating all three crimes together because of similarities between them, but we have not formally established a link at this time and are not sure the same offender is responsible, although it's not something we can rule out," she said.
"We're taking this investigation very seriously, for obvious reasons, and we really need the public's help to catch the person, or people, responsible.
"At the same time, we want to highlight this sort of crime publicly to ensure that women in particular don't take any risks with their own personal safety.
"Because this sort of crime is so uncommon in the county, and we want things to stay that way, we are putting a lot of effort into finding whoever is responsible for each offence."