Help find sexual predator responsible for "terrifying" Benhall ordeal - police
DETECTIVES investigating an attempted rape in Cheltenham say the sexual predator responsible may still be at large.
Three weeks ago today, a young woman suffered what police say was a "terrifying ordeal" while walking along Robert Burns Avenue, Benhall, in the evening gloom – and police are stepping up their appeal for help in catching the culprit.
Detective Inspector Jan Blomfield said: "I have daughters and I don't want them – or anyone else – walking around afraid this kind of thing might happen.
"Help us catch the person responsible."
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A man wearing a balaclava is alleged to have grabbed her from behind before attempting to drag her into nearby bushes.
Fortunately, he was disturbed when a passing motorist flashed his headlights and a nearby dog walker heard the woman's screams, fleeing on foot down a path which runs alongside Hatherley Brook.
Without that intervention, police warn, it could have been much worse.
Detective Chief Inspector Ali Stenner made an impassioned plea for people to come forward with information.
He said: "This was a terrifying ordeal for the young lady concerned which she will have to live with for the rest of her life. Hopefully, in time she will make a full recovery.
"But we need people to come forward with information so we can catch the person responsible and ensure no one else has to go through the same thing."
Officers have been back to the scene of the crime in an attempt to recreate the attacker's movements, leaving marks on the pavement where it happened.
Two sightings of a suspect believed to be linked to the crime have been reported.
Police have released computer generated images depicting faces of a man seen in the area at around 5.30pm and then at 6.43pm – just after the crime took place.
Police say a dirty hoodie worn by the offender could be key to tracing him.
They are also not ruling out links with other sex attacks in Gloucester in 2011 and 2012.
DCI Stenner added: "We urgently need people to rack their brains to think what they were doing on the night in question.
"Did you see anyone matching the descriptions depicted in our computer generated image? Did someone come home with a dirty hoodie or did you notice a friend or family member acting in a suspicious way?
"We need everyone who was in the area at the time to cast their minds back.
"This could be the difference between charging someone and letting them walk free."
The attacker is alleged to have struck at around 6.40pm on February 18.
He is described as white, around 5ft 10in tall, wearing a dark balaclava, slightly baggy jeans and a blue hooded top with two side pockets and a zip down the middle.
One resident, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Echo: "It's terrifying to think this has happened in such a well-to-do residential area. It has left everyone around here shocked.
"I do hope the woman concerned is doing okay."
A 42-year-old man from Cheltenham arrested on suspicion of attempted rape in connection with the incident and has been released on bail until today.
Anyone with information can call police on 101 quoting incident 393 of February 18, or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.