POLICE are hunting a man who carried out a “terrifying” sexual assault on a woman as she walked home from work in Southampton.

The woman was returning to her car which was parked on Cypress Avenue in Sholing sometime between 2.30am and 3am today when she was approached and threatened by a man.

According to Hampshire police the man then forced the 29-year-old woman to a nearby wooded area near Merryoak Road where he carried out what is being described as “a very serious sexual assault.”

The man was described as white, aged in his early 30s, around 5ft8 to 5ft 9 with short dark hair and of medium build.

He was clean shaven and wearing a dark coloured jumper and jeans.

Det Insp Jim Park who is leading the investigation said: “This was a terrifying ordeal for the lady concerned, but there is nothing to suggest that this is linked to any other incidents at this stage.

“I would like to appeal to anyone who was in the area who heard or saw anything that may possibly be relevant to our investigation. Also, anyone who may know a friend or relative who arrived home in the early hours of this morning and who was perhaps behaving out of character.

“I would always urge anyone regardless of age, both male and female, to be aware of your personal safety especially after dark. Stick to well-lit areas, and where possible try not to walk alone and carry a personal safety alarm."

Large parts of Spring Road and Merryoak Road have been cordoned off by police while officers examine the scene.

Patrols are now being stepped up in the neighbourhood and the public is being urged to consider their personal safety whilst walking in the city.

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Det Insp Park added: “We'll have extra officers on patrol around the Bitterne area. If you do have any problems, please speak to them or call us on 101 or 999 in an emergency.”

Anyone with information can contact Hampshire police on 101 or call Crimestoperrs on 0800 111 555.