Thursday, August 21, 2008

Serial attacker terrorises women with 16 vicious assaults in town within one mile radius

A serial attacker wielding a claw hammer who targets lone women at night is bringing terror to the streets of a seaside resort.

Police are linking 16 assaults all within a mile of each other in Hastings, East Sussex, over the past two years.

Detectives fear they are in a race against time before the man - who sometimes wears a hoodie - kills, and many women are now too scared to venture alone into the town centre at night.

The assailant punches his victims in the face or clubs them with hammers, iron bars and bottles, sometimes knocking them unconscious.

But he does not steal from them or sexually assault them and police believe he is motivated by a hatred of women.

He strikes between 11pm and 3am and has carried out four attacks in the same street.

The victims, aged between 15 and 45, were all left injured and traumatised.

One, 26-year-old Dee Harrison, was walking home at 1am on May 16 this year when the man lashed out at her with a bottle.

'I realised he was approaching me and tried to walk a bit quicker,' she said. 'I didn't think much of it until he said, "Excuse me", by which time he'd hit me.

'I didn't know what was going on - just sheer panic. It's petrified me. I'm going to be scared to go out at night now.

'I just hope he's going to get caught and hope someone close to him knows who he is and hands him in.'

In the last two attacks, the man has used a claw hammer and a bottle to knock women unconscious and appears to be getting bolder - approaching his victims face-on rather than sneaking up behind.

Detective Chief Inspector Trevor Bowles said: 'We reviewed past crimes and it became clear there was a serial attacker on the loose.

'We fear that if he is not caught soon, the level of violence may escalate again.

'It is clear he has the capacity to seriously injure his victims, if not worse.'

Mr Bowles said the women were picked at random but he believes the attacker carried out detailed preparatory work on their movements.

'These are not sexual assaults or robberies, but acts of extreme violence. We are left assuming he has a hatred of women, but we can only speculate as to why.'

One Hastings resident, Carly Thomas, 23, said many of her friends share her worry of going out alone. 'I won't go out after 7pm or before 7am  -  no one I know wants to go out at night now.'

Police have released three e-fits of the suspect  - two with a hoodie and one without  -  after he showed his face to the past two victims.

He is described as white, muscular, in his 20s or 30s, and with dark hair.

Police and Crimestoppers have put up a £10,000 reward for information leading to his conviction.


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