POLICE are hunting a man who stabbed and may have sexually assaulted an 85-year-old woman in her Edinburgh home.
The woman, who was found with life-threatening injuries at a house in Edinburgh’s Morningside area on Friday, is in a critical but stable condition in hospital.
Officers are waiting to speak to the victim, who has yet to regain consciousness, but are treating the attack as attempted murder.
Detective Chief Inspector Keith Hardie said the incident took place after the woman’s husband left the house.
He said: “We are satisfied from the injuries sustained by our victim that she had been stabbed on numerous occasions. They are life-threatening injuries without a doubt.
“Her condition is described as critical but stable. She was possibly the victim of a blunt force trauma.
“She is also displaying injuries which may be consistent with some form of sexual attack.
“As a result of the door-to-door inquiries, we have identified a witness who saw a male standing outside the locus, we believe in the doorway, about 3:30pm on Friday afternoon.
“That is clearly a crucial time because the victim’s husband had left the house, leaving the victim on her own.”
The attacker is described as aged 18 to 30, of average build with short dark hair.
Officers in the area are continuing door-to-door inquiries in the area and CCTV footage is being examined.
Mr Hardie said the possibility of rape was “absolutely” being investigated.
The victim was on her own in the house for around an hour and a half and was discovered in the living room by her husband on his return from the shops.
Her family were “shocked and traumatised” by the incident, Mr Hardie said.
He added: “In my experience within the service, I’ve never really heard of anything to this extent, of this nature – an attack on an elderly woman in the safety of her own house, a vicious attack, and plainly an attempt to take her life.”
Mr Hardie said it was “unlikely” that the woman had been specifically targeted, saying he would not rule out the possibility that the perpetrator saw the husband leaving the house and thought it was empty.
Officers remained outside the house yesterday, while forensic investigations continued.
An alley at the back of the house – where police believe the attacker may have escaped – was also taped off, with forensic officers photographing the scene.
The victim has been suffering from dementia for several years, according to neighbours.
One said: “It’s not been easy for her husband as he is quite shaky too, but I always see him going for the bus. You never see his wife.
“She has had dementia for quite a while and I know it’s been pretty hard on the family and her husband.”
A couple who live nearby added: “They’ve lived here for over 30 years, everyone knows them.
“They’re a lovely couple. We can’t believe somebody would do this. It makes you scared to be here on your own.
“She is a very dear friend and I just hope she pulls through.”
The house is a short distance from the Royal Edinburgh psychiatric hospital, where a man was arrested after stabbing two people last week.
Police said there was “no link” between the hospital and Friday’s incident.