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A 62-year old woman was bashed and sexually assaulted yesterday as she worked alone in a Nelson community garden.
Police are hunting the "cowardly" attacker and urged locals in the Victory area of Nelson to take safety precautions until he was in custody.
The woman was working alone in a shade house at the Victory community gardens about 2.30pm when the "vicious" attack took place by a man in his 20s.
She remained in hospital with substantial head and facial injuries, along with other lacerations and bruising to her body. Her injuries were not life-threatening.
Detective Sergeant Ian Langridge of the Nelson CIB said police had serious concerns about the behaviour of the offender and what he might be capable of.
"This has been a cowardly and prolonged attack on an older woman," he said.
"While I am confident we will identify the offender, I must urge people in the Victory area to take precautions about their personal safety until we have that person in custody.
"This man clearly has issues that need to be addressed urgently. He is a risk to himself and the wider community and I strongly encourage him to hand himself in."
The offender was described as a dark skinned male, possibly Maori or Polynesian, in his early 20s with short hair and very distinctive tattoos.
His left arm was fully tattooed from the shoulder to the wrist in a Maori or tribal design.
His right arm was also tattooed from the shoulder to the elbow in what was believed to be a Maori or tribal design.
Police would like to hear from anyone who was in the vicinity of the Victory Community Gardens about 2.30pm yesterday and who had seen anything that might be relevant to this investigation.
Police would also like to hear from anyone who had information about who the offender may be.
Today, police were completing the scene examination with ESR scientists and conducting a door-to-door area canvas of houses in the area to speak to possible witnesses and identify the offender.