A huge manhunt is underway across Pendle by police who are urging the public to help catch a “dangerous and sinister” suspected serial sex offender.
Detectives are hunting a man who assaulted a woman in her home in Colne, and believe he may be responsible for two other assaults.
The latest frightening incident happened around 4-15am on Sunday when a man entered the victim’s house on Talbot Street.
The offender got in through an open window and confronted the victim in her bedroom where she had returned after making herself a drink.
He grabbed her by the face, tried to remove some of her clothes and then subjected her to a serious oral sexual assault.
DCI Gary Brooks said: “This was an extremely shocking, predatory and sinister attack on a woman who should have been safe in her own home. We continue to have specially trained officers supporting her through this difficult time.
“We need a name. However, any information that will help could be absolutely crucial. There’s a possibility this man could strike again, which is why we are urging the public to help so we can get this man behind bars.
“If anyone spots this man on the street they should ring 999 immediately. If they have any information they should ring 101.
“We need anyone who recognises this man or who has any information that could assist us with our investigation to get in touch with us immediately. We appreciate the help that people have given to us already but now the key thing for us is finding the man.
“We would like to reassure residents that we have a dedicated team of detectives working on this investigation and we have also stepped up patrols in the area where this happened.
“Our advice to local residents remains the same. We are telling people to stay vigilant and to ensure that they keep their windows and doors locked and secure overnight for their safety.
“We have also released a picture of a pair of trainers that detectives believe are similar to the ones worn by the offender.”
The senior officer added that police were focusing a lot of resources on hunting the man and urged anyone with any kind of information to come forward.
He revealed that the suspect was seen drinking in the Commercial, Union Exchange and Market Tavern in Colne on Saturday night, before the offences took place.
Police have now released stills and CCTV footage of the suspect.
DCI Brooks added: “Please look at these shoes and the clothing that the man is wearing. Do you know someone who owns these items? Did you see someone wearing them in the Colne area on Saturday night? If yes, please make contact with us.”
This latest incident is being linked to two other similar reports which happened in the nearby areas of Nelson and Barrowford in July and August.
The first incident took place at a house on Hawthorne Grove in Barrowford at 5-40am on Saturday, July 23rd, when a 70-year-old woman woke up to find a man standing over her bed after he is thought to have got in through an open upstairs window. He left when she shouted at him.
The second incident took place on Saturday, August 13th, at an address on Bispham Road in Nelson when a 49-year-old woman was asleep on her sofa in her lounge. At around 4-10am she woke to see a man standing over her and when she shouted at him to leave, he then made off from the house. He is also thought to have entered the address via an insecure ground floor window.
DCI Brooks added: “If the three incidents have indeed been committed by the same man, we can see that his behaviour has been escalating and has culminated in this serious sexual assault on Saturday. It is important that we find him as soon as possible.”
The offender is described as possibly Asian, in his late twenties, between 5ft 2ins to 5ft 5ins tall with a moustache and facial stubble. He was wearing a baseball cap with a motif on the front and a peak lighter in colour than the rest of the hat, a dark jacket and white Nike trainers with red laces.
Anyone who recognises the man or has any information that they think may assist the investigation is asked to call us on 101 quoting incident reference LC-20161009-0269.
Alternatively Crimestoppers can be contacted anonymously on 0800 555111 or online at crimestoppers-uk.org.