Police: 'Bloody animal' has attacked before

By Andrew Koubaridis

A man who viciously attacked an Auckland woman is being chased by police over a series of similar random attacks.

The man, described by police as a "bloody animal", yesterday punched a 63-year-old cyclist off her bike and then hurled her off a 3m bridge in Waiatarua Reserve, near Remuera.

Police have revealed three other, similar attacks by a man in
the area have occurred since mid-January.

On January 13, an American tourist was punched in the head as he walked in Michael's Ave Reserve, only a short distance from yesterday's attack.

A couple of days later - on January 18 - a male cyclist was knocked off his bike during an unprovoked attack by a stocky Maori or Polynesian man in Koraha St. The injured cyclist called police and followed his attacker into nearby Abbott's Way but lost sight of him there.

Police investigated both incidents but could not find any sign of the attacker. None of the victims were robbed.

An elderly man was also punched and knocked out as he walked in Waiatarua Reserve on Saturday night. He did not see his attacker and was unable to provide police with a description.

Detective Sergeant Mark Rowbottom says it's likely the attacker lives locally and will strike again if not caught.

"The woman attacked yesterday morning is understandably traumatised by her hideous experience and, among other injuries, has suffered a fractured eye socket for which she will need further medical attention," Mr Rowbottom says.

He said the attacker in three of the four attacks had been described as between 30 and 40 years-old, Maori or Polynesian, about 6'4" tall and of fat build with very thick-set legs.

"Anyone who has any idea who this man is should contact the Glen Innes CIB as soon as possible before we're dealing with something even more serious."

In the latest incident, a woman was biking alone when the man approached her as she was crossing the footbridge and - without saying a word - began punching her.

He picked her up and threw her from the bridge into the water below, then dropped her bicycle on top of her.

The woman, who hasn't been named, suffered a bloody nose, a back injury and scratches to her legs.

Police said she was lucky to be alive.

"This is a callous, vicious attack by a bloody animal ... We're lucky there was no serious injury," said Detective Sergeant Jason McIntosh of the Auckland crime squad.

The woman plummeted 3m into the water, which broke her fall.

The water was shallow enough for her to stand in, and she clambered out.

Passersby helped her until police arrived.

Mr McIntosh told the Herald the attack came out of the blue.

"There's nothing to suggest she was picked out. That would just be speculation."

The attacker said nothing to the woman, and was believed to have fled the scene on foot.

The woman, who lives nearby, was last night being comforted by her husband and other family members.

"She's pretty shaken up," said Mr McIntosh. "She doesn't deserve for this to happen, and it's not what you expect while you are going for a nice quiet ride in the park."

The Herald understands the woman is a regular cyclist who uses the bridge often.

Cycle Action Auckland chairman Bevan Woodward said an anti-cyclist attitude seemed to be spreading and had led to incidents in which cyclists had been abused.

"Abuse does happen, but it's not always people being shouted at. It's people getting deliberately close to cyclists, trying to scare them off the road."

Police are appealing for witnesses to the attack and want to hear from anyone who saw the man in the park.

Anyone who has any information can telephone the Auckland city crime squad on (09) 302-6789.

- NZ Herald

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