Detectives investigating the attempted murder and rape of a woman in Leeds are conducting a large-scale DNA swabbing operation as part of their hunt for the attacker.
She was dragged from the bus stop into a nearby garden and struck over the head numerous times with a large stone before being raped. She received serious head injuries and a fractured pelvis.
Detectives from West Yorkshire Police Homicide and Major Enquiry Team launched a phased DNA screening exercise in the days following the attack based on advice from national experts in offender profiling.
The operation has seen officers visiting addresses to request a swab from anyone who broadly fits the description of the offender.
This work has been running in phases which have targeted zones moving increasingly outwards from the scene of the attack.
So far officers have visited 1,100 addresses, spoken to 3,000 people and taken swabs from more than 250 men aged between 18 and 30. The process is non-intrusive and simply involves a swab similar to a cotton bud being rubbed on the inside of the person’s cheek to gather cells from which a DNA profile can be obtained.
Those samples are then being compared to the offender’s DNA profile that was recovered from the scene of the attack.
Detective Superintendent Nick Wallen, who is leading the investigation, said: “The offender’s movements on the night of the attack and the work we have been doing with experts in crime profiling still strongly suggest the attacker has a link to the Beeston area.
“This mass swabbing operation is just one aspect of the investigation but it is vitally important for us to be able eliminate as many potential suspects as possible.
“We are working in targeted phases at the moment and will continue to use this tactic more widely as the investigation continues.
“The vast majority of people we have approached have been happy to assist us and I think this in part due to the very strong feeling there is out there that this man must be caught and taken off the streets as soon as possible.
“The fact that we have a full DNA profile for the offender means that nobody has anything to fear about being wrongly implicated or telling us about anyone they have suspicions about.”
The mark found on the back of the victim’s jeans has been identified as one used by sportswear firm Nike, mainly on the Huarache style.
Det Supt Wallen added: “The CCTV footage that we have released of the attacker shows he is wearing predominantly white trainers. The victim can give no other reason why there would be such and mark on her clothing and so we believe this footwear mark is likely to be his.
“These types of trainers are mass produced and widely available and it may seem like a small thing but I would ask people to consider it alongside all the other elements of description we have previously released and consider whether it points to a particular individual.”
The vehicles, which are equipped with large video screens, will repeatedly show an appeal presentation, including the CCTV of the attacker and a reminder that independent crime-fighting charity Crimestoppers is offering a reward of up to £5,000 for any information passed directly to them that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible.
On Saturday, a video vehicle will be stationed in high footfall areas across the city centre and on Wednesday the campaign will target the city centre, the universities, Hyde Park, Burley and Beeston.
Det Supt Wallen said: “While the ongoing appeal has already received extensive coverage across local and national media and on social media, officers are still encountering some people who are not aware of it.
“We want to do all we can to keep the appeal for information at the forefront of people’s minds. Just because we have not yet had that crucial call that leads to this man’s identity does not mean that the answer isn’t out there with someone.
“Although it is six weeks to the day tomorrow since this appalling attack we remain as determined as we were at the outset to find this man and bring him to justice.
“No-one can exist in a vacuum and in the densely populated areas of the city that we know he has been in he cannot have passed unnoticed. I would again urge people to look very closely at the information we have released and contact us immediately if they know anything that could assist the investigation.”
Anyone with any information is asked to contact the Homicide and Major Enquiry Team on 01924 334710 or via 101 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.