A SOUTHAMPTON community is in shock after a teenager was sexually assaulted in a graveyard and robbed.

As reported by the Daily Echo, detectives have launched a major investigation after the 19-year-old was the victim of a sex attack in the graveyard at St Mary's Church.

He was also robbed at a cashpoint at the nearby Tesco Express store, and police are now appealing for witnesses to track down his attacker.

Hampshire Constabulary says the incidents happened between 2.45am and 3.30am on Saturday morning.

The force is still trying to piece together exactly what happened, and has not disclosed the severity of the sexual assault.

But the Daily Echo understands the victim and his assailant were seen walking to Tesco Express in St Mary Street at 3.17am, from the direction of the church.

The victim withdrew money from the cashpoint while the other man stood behind him, and they then both walked off northwards, away from the church.

Detective Inspector Dave Jackson said: “I would like to hear from anyone who was in the St Mary Street area from 3am, who may have seen an altercation at the cash machine outside Tesco Express.

“I would also like to speak to anyone who may have seen a group of men in the churchyard between about 2.45am and 3.30am as they may have information.”

Anyone with information should contact the police on 101.

But while some residents and community leaders have reacted with shock to the incidents, others say they are not surprised.

Beryl Harris, from Golden Grove, said: “It is a shock, it's such a nasty thing to happen to someone”.

But Bill Lochhead from James Street said: “You never expect to see something like this happening and the area has got better of late, but it is a bad area at the moment.

“I always warn my sons not to walk around this area when they are out at night.”

And Zayyad Khan, co-owner of Kingsland Foods in St Mary Street, said: “It's a horrible thing.

“I think we need more cameras in the area, as there won't be many police officers around at that time.

“It would act as a deterrent.”

One of the area's ward councillors, city council leisure boss Matt Tucker, said: “It's awful - it's absolutely deplorable and it's not something we should tolerate in civilised society.

“If anyone was around at that time they really need to come forward. It is really concerning because we want to encourage young people to enjoy themselves in the city and although we have to bear in mind personal safety it is not something young people should expect coming back home at that time of the morning.”

Reverend Julian Davies, Rector of St Mary's Church, said: “It's very rare that such an incident takes place in St Mary's, and it's a very safe area, certainly much safer than it used to be.”