Scotland Yard today issued an alert to women walking home alone after a series of random violent attacks on victims in south London.
The warning came after three women were assaulted and punched in the face and head in what detectives fear are “sexually motivated “ incidents.
The attacks took place within a four square mile radius in south London – the first on December 4 last year and the most recent on January 1 on a woman walking home after New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Police say they are so sudden that victims are not aware of anyone behind them and cannot recall details of the suspect’s face. In one case a woman was left unconscious on the pavement before being discovered by a passer-by.
Today detectives released CCTV images of a hooded suspect fleeing from a scene and warned women walking late at night to take precautions such as not wearing headphones and being aware of people around them.
Detective Chief Inspector Zena Marshall, who is leading the inquiry, said : “These women were completely unaware of anyone until they were attacked. The attacks take place in a matter of seconds and the suspect targets lone females early in the morning, in one case he followed the woman for four minutes before the attack.
“We believe there could be a sexual motive, although there is no evidence of a sexual attack. The motive is not believed to be theft or robbery because the suspect has left items of value at the scene.”
DCI Marshall, of Scotland Yard’s Serious and Complex Case Team, added : “The level of violence appears to have escalated each time so I am urging women, in and around the areas affected, to be alert and follow personal safety advice.
“I cannot rule out that there may be other offences, which could possibly be linked. If you are a woman who has been approached or assaulted in circumstances that sound similar to these, but have not reported it to the police, then I would urge you to please get in touch with us.”
She said some women may have been followed but not reported the incident to police and she urged them to come forward.
All the women were walking home alone after a night out in central London, in the latest case a woman was returned from New Year’s Eve celebrations.
At first all the attacks were investigated separately but police say the suspect’s actions has led them to being linked.
All the assaults have taken place in the early hours of a weekend or public holiday.
The first incident was on Friday, December 4 in Commercial Way, Peckham between 1.15am and 2.15am when the 31-year-old victim suffered assault injuries.
The second took place on Sunday, December 13 in Hanover Park street in Peckham 6:15am and 6.45am. The 30-year-old victim was knocked unconsciousness and was discovered lying in the street by a passer-by.
The third attack took place on New Year’s Day in Creekside, Deptford in the early hours when an 18-year-old woman suffered serious injuries to her head and face.
The police advice includes:
- Prepare travel arrangements carefully and ensure someone knows where you are going and when you might be home.
- Look as assertive as you can, walk with confidence and be aware of your surroundings and who is around you.
- Avoid short cuts and dark isolated areas, vary your routine and be discreet handling cash, phones and wearing jewellery in a public place.
- Never take your safety for granted and look after your friends so that they don’t become vulnerable.
Anyone with information should call 020 8217 6541 or ring Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.