Sightings of man wanted for sexual assault of elderly woman

By Sam Hurley, Amy Shanks -
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Police at the scene of a sexual attack on an elderly lady in Ikanui Road, Hastings. Photo / Glenn Taylor
Police at the scene of a sexual attack on an elderly lady in Ikanui Road, Hastings. Photo / Glenn Taylor

Several witnesses have reported seeing a man who matches the description of a suspect wanted wanted in relation to the attack and sexual violation of an 87-year-old woman.

The Hastings grandmother walked out to check her mail about noon on Thursday, and was "pulling a few weeds from the garden" when she was grabbed and dragged into the lounge, her son said.

Police and detectives are continuing their investigation into the attack, conducting interviews and a scene examination.

"There is a medic alert button but she didn't have the presence of mind to use it, so she just waited until I came home," her son told Hawke's Bay Today.

"She was just glad to see me but, when I walked in and saw the scene, I thought the worst."

The Frimley house she shared with her son was "extremely open" but neighbours had not seen or heard anything of the ordeal.

"She was screaming out for help but nobody heard her ... [the assault] was brief because she had the foresight to tell him I was coming home for lunch. That got him away from her. She was very clever."

Her assailant, described as dark skinned and wearing a green hooded sweatshirt, fled without taking anything, leading him to believe the attack was sexually motivated.

"She can't remember a lot of details but said she would know him if she saw him. He must have been quite young, he needed to be strong to bundle her up like that."

After a trip to the police medical examiner in Napier, she settled in at her grand-daughter's and was holding up well.

"She slept okay last night. There is just bad bruising to all of her body. She's quite strong willed. She wants to go home, which is surprising."

A widow for 20 years, the woman has three children and eight grandchildren, who had rallied around her, sending cards, messages of support and flowers.

Police cordoned off the house on Thursday, erecting a tent and covering an area in tarpaulin.

Detective Sergeant John McCarthy told Hawke's Bay Today last night police were still examining the scene and canvassing the area.

"We need to talk to a few more people and have a look through all the information. It's going to be a slow process.

"She is obviously pretty shaken but she is a very brave lady. We are offering support and all the comfort we can.

"I don't know what words I would use to describe this attack. It's really a nasty sexual attack on an 87-year-old woman."

Initial investigations indicated the attacker was acting alone.

"We don't want people to panic or be scared. We believe this was a one-off attack."

Speaking to TV3 at the scene yesterday, Mr McCarthy said police were "throwing every resource" into finding the offender.

"It's a nasty attack on this person. It is an open area, so we are assuming that someone would have seen this person."

He said people could "only imagine" what the victim had been through and pleaded for the community to come forward with information about the attack.

Residents of the close-knit community were saddened and alarmed by the distressing news.

"She's very friendly, certainly not someone anybody would want to harm. I can't imagine that sort of person - well, it's not a person, it's an animal - that could do something like that," a concerned neighbour said. "I was walking past her house about 12.30pm [on Thursday], I didn't know anything was wrong, just feel awful about what's happened," another said.

It was normally a quiet area, where many elderly lived alone.

"It's been terrible. I have been locking my doors but you just don't expect that sort of thing to happen in the middle of the day," a nearby resident said.

A woman from directly across the road was perplexed no one had seen anything. "I was outside waiting for someone to pick me up, I didn't see a thing. It's a community where people notice everything, look out for one another."

She described the victim as a quiet soul, who kept to herself and loved to potter in her garden.

"It's so sad, she doesn't come out much anyway."

Anyone with information should contact Hastings police on (06) 831 0700 or information can be left anonymously with Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

- with APNZ

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