POLICE today stepped up their manhunt for a sex attacker who carried out a “terrifying” assault on a woman as she walked home from work.

The 29-year-old was returning to her car which was parked in Cypress Avenue, Sholing, Southampton, when she was forced into woodland by a man who carried out what police are describing as a “very serious sexual assault”.

Residents in the area have been left in shock as their usually quiet neighbourhood found itself at the centre of a major police investigation that has seen patrols stepped up as they continue their search today.

Yesterday large parts of Spring Road and Merryoak Road were cordoned off by police while officers examined the scene and carried out extensive doorto- door-enquiries.

Mums picking up their children from the nearby schools gathered near the police tape confused about what was going on.

The victim was walking to her car between 2.30am and 3am yesterday when she was approached and threatened by a man.

According to Hampshire police the man then forced her to a nearby woodland area near Merryoak Road where he carried out the horrifying attack.

The attacker was described as white, in his early 30s, around 5ft 8in to 5ft 9in 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.

“I would also appeal to 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.”