Police fear sex attacker could strike again

A police forensics officer takes pictures of the scene of the sex attack. Picture: Jon Savage
A police forensics officer takes pictures of the scene of the sex attack. Picture: Jon Savage
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A SEX attacker who targeted a teenager in a quiet suburb has been linked to an earlier assault – and police fear he could strike again.

The 19-year-old woman had been walking home on Newmills Road, Balerno, when she was attacked from behind, threatened and dragged into a nearby field.

Newmills Road in Balerno, where the attack took place. Picture: Google Maps

Newmills Road in Balerno, where the attack took place. Picture: Google Maps

She was subjected to a “distressing” serious sexual assault in a wooded area in the early hours of yesterday before her attacker fled the scene.

The incident was the second sex attack to take place in Capital in the space of 24 hours.

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And detectives today revealed that they believe the incident could be linked with a case on Craiglockhart Road earlier this month.

The suspect in the latest assault – described as being between 20 and 30, with long hair and wearing a grey hoodie and dark jeans – matches the description of the earlier attacker.

Detective Inspector Grant Johnston, who is leading the investigation, said he “couldn’t rule out” that the predator could strike again.

The latest victim had just got off a bus after finishing work in the city centre and was walking through the quiet residential area when she was targeted.

He approached her from behind and made verbal threats before dragging her to a wooded area at the edge of a nearby field.

Police refused to reveal whether a weapon was used in the incident. The attacker is believed to have had an Edinburgh or English accent.

Forensics experts have been combing the wooded area while officers are conducting door-to-door inquiries and trawling CCTV for possible clues.

DI Johnston said high-visibility patrols would be stepped up to reassure local residents.

The victim did not require medical treatment and is being comforted at home by relatives.

“She’s been able to make a full description during what’s been an extremely distressing incident,” said DI Johnston.

“We have had trained officers with her and she has now been returned home to the care of her family. There was another incident at Craiglockhart that happened on August 5 that may be linked, and we’re conscious as part of the investigation that we’re considering the details of that one. I’m confident that we’ll make an early arrest.”

Councillor Bill Henderson, who lives nearby, said the entire community was in shock.

He said: “It is usually such a safe area. It has shocked me – it is not an area where people are seen hanging around. It’s all residential. The last thing I want is for people to be scared to go out.”

The sex attack took place at 12.30am yesterday – less than 24 hours after a man was raped in an unconnected incident in the city centre. Detectives are following a “positive line of inquiry” in connection with the rape, in Greyfriars Kirkyard at 6.30am on Wednesday.

Police are urging people to be aware of their surroundings at all times and not to walk alone late at night.

On August 5, a 21-year-old woman was assaulted at the junction of Craiglockhart Road and Craiglockhart Quadrant at around 10.30pm. The suspect was last seen running back along Craiglockhart Road, past the junction with Craiglockhart Park, where he was lost to sight.

Anyone with information should call police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.