Fears after attacks on Dunedin women

A woman has been left with facial injuries and residents are worried in the wake of two nighttime street attacks on Dunedin women.

In the first incident, a woman was grabbed by a male outside a property in Signal Hill Rd on Monday night. Police were not ruling out a sexual motive.

In another incident, a woman received a possible broken cheekbone and severe facial bruising after she was attacked while walking to work in St Kilda about 4.20am yesterday.

The 46-year-old victim was too upset to talk the Otago Daily Times yesterday but niece Chanel Arthur-Jones said it was ‘‘pretty shocking''.

‘‘She was walking to work . . . and someone grabbed her by her hair and punched her in the face,'' Miss Arthur-Jones said.

‘‘Her face is pretty swollen and she might have a hairline fracture in her cheekbone.''

The alleged attacker came from behind and stole her shoulder bag, which contained work clothes and a wallet, she said. He punched her in the face after the victim instinctively tried to hold on to the bag.

‘‘She said it happened quite quickly; [but] she's pretty sure it was a man.''

Miss Arthur-Jones was worried the attack could be linked to other attacks on women in Dunedin in the past three months.

‘‘She's a bit put off by walking now. She's walked that way for a couple of years. It's her usual routine. She said a couple of times that someone has been watching her walking to work. If she walks that way all the time and he's seen her before . . .

‘‘It's a bit scary, as I only live a block away from where she was attacked.''

Senior Sergeant Craig Dinnissen, of Dunedin, confirmed police were investigating the incident, which happened of Freyberg and Council Sts about 4.20am yesterday.

The woman suffered facial injuries and had a handbag stolen, he said.

Police were also investigating an assault in Opoho on Monday night.

Resident Stacey Wilson said police had been door-knocking on Signal Hill Rd looking for information about an assault but she had not seen or heard anything.

‘‘I would like to know what happened. How worried do we need to be really?'' she said.

Jacqueline Wood had also spoken to police and said she was ‘‘upset'' and hoped the police found the person.

Detective Senior Sergeant Malcolm Inglis confirmed the assault and said police were taking it ‘‘extremely seriously''.

‘‘Any attack on a female at night, police will always look at the possibility it is sexually motivated. As the victim was able to break free quite quickly it meant there was no sexual assault in this case. That is not to say it was not a sexually motivated attack.''

There was nothing to suggest the assault was connected to a sexual assault near the Ross Creek reservoir on November 30 but police were keeping an open mind, Det Snr Sgt Inglis said.

A police spokeswoman said in the Opoho incident, the woman was assaulted about 10.30pm.

‘‘It appears a male has approached a female on the street outside an address and has grabbed her by the arm. The female has been able to break free and leave the scene,'' the spokeswoman said.

Police wanted reassure the community they treated an attack on anyone extremely seriously, she said.

On Tuesday the Otago Daily Times reported there were concerns about harassment in the student quarter, including towards women.

Anyone with information on the two recent incidents was asked to contact Dunedin police on (03) 471-4800 or through Crimestoppers on 0800-555-111.

rhys.chamberlain@odt.co.nz

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