A woman was sexually assaulted before having her bag stolen as she was walking along a Christchurch street early on Easter Sunday.

The attack happened on Ferry Road, near the intersection of Nursery Road, about 3am, a police spokeswoman said.

A man, unknown to the woman, pulled her from behind into a nearby driveway.

After the sexual assault, he then followed her as she fled along Ferry Road towards the Embankment Tavern and snatched her brown/black handbag the spokeswoman said

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The man was described as Caucasian with short dark hair, about 30-40 years of age, above average height wearing jeans and a dark hoodie. The man didn't have any discernible accent.

Police were appealing to anyone who might have seen the man approach or follow the woman along Ferry Road or witnessed the incident near the intersection of Ferry Road and Nursery Road to contact them on 03 363 7400.

Information could also be provided anonymously by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.