Police refuse to give up on hunt for sex attacker
RAPE investigators are refusing to give up on unsolved sex crimes, despite police drawing a blank on four vicious attacks on women in Gloucestershire.
The first serious sex assault took place in Springbank Park, Cheltenham, in November 2011 and was followed by a similar attack in Longlevens two months later. A third, in May 2012, saw a woman raped in Clock Tower Park, Abbeymead.
Each sexually motivated attack carried a similar theme. The man wore a balaclava, or covered his face, and threatened to stab his victim.
As the attacks worsened, the police investigation intensified.
But despite a national TV appeal on BBC Crimewatch, the trail has gone cold.
Police are still hopeful of finding that golden nugget that could yet blow the investigation wide open.
Heading up Operation Abbeymead, Detective Chief Inspector Alastair Stenner said it is the biggest forensic investigation he has known in 25 years.
"Gloucestershire is a nice place to live so crime patterns like this stand out," he said.
"The same team looked at all three attacks as we were interested in the similarities. We wanted to find out if they were linked.
"Crimewatch kept the profile up, but we didn't get the golden nugget we were hoping for. We had a dozen new leads, but there were no witnesses. We have done an awful lot of forensic work, all down to the final degree. It is continually under review as science improves and we will be able to do more with the evidence in future."
In February, a fourth attack, this time in Robert Burns Avenue, Benhall, gave police new hope more clues could be found.
It was a similar pattern, a woman was attacked by a man who hid his face and threatened her with a knife, before sexually assaulting her. Although not formally linked, police have refused to rule out the same attacker being responsible.
Five men have been pulled in for questioning. Each has been released without charge. But lines of inquiry remain open.
"We are aware of the striking similarities between the cases," said DCI Stenner.
"Patrols have been taking place to try and gather information to help us crack the case, but that hasn't happened yet. We have not given up.
"The core members of my team and me will always have an active interest in this. We brought in experts from the national police college to help.
"The attacker could work away, or there may be a trigger point in his private life that makes him commit these crimes. Or they could be four separate offences.
"The descriptions varied, but you would expect that with the traumatic experience the victims went through.
"We are in a really strong position where there is a good screening of intelligence and have looked at all four cases extremely thoroughly.
"Somebody will know something. They will have a suspicion about something or a concern about somebody they know.
"I don't want people thinking this is a closed case. It is not."
To pass on new information, call police on 101, quoting Operation Abbeymead.