POLICE hunting a rapist who struck in Southampton have released CCTV images of a man they want to trace.

The footage shows the 18-year-old victim being followed along Wessex Lane minutes before she was attacked in nearby Riverside Park.

Police issued the images last night as it emerged that at least two other women have been followed in the same area.

Detective Inspector Matt Barcraft-Barnes said: “We know it’s dark and we can’t see his face but you might recognise the way he walks together with his description - it’s really important we find this man.

"In response to our appeals to the public, two more women have reported being followed along Woodmill Lane prior to this offence.

"The first incident happened on November 14 at 9.15pm and the second occurred on December 1 just after 11.30pm, 24 hours before the rape.

"Both women were followed but not attacked. We now believe all three incidents involved the same man."

The rape took place on Sunday, December 2 between 11.30pm and 11.50pm.

The suspect is described as white, in his 30s, tall, medium build and a wide mouth.

He had stubble on his face and top lip, suggesting he not shaved for several days. His hair was medium brown and shaven all over, like a grade 1. He was wearing a dark green top with a hood and dark trainers.

Police believe he smokes and walks while drinking from a can or bottle.

Officers are anxious to hear from anyone who recognises the man, including hairdressers and people who might have served him in a pub or shop.

They also want to trace two cars which appear in the CCTV footage as they travel towards Woodmill Lane.

The first appears to be a white or silver-coloured hatchback while the second looks like a dark-coloured saloon. Police say the drivers could prove to be vital witnesses.

Officers from the Southampton North Neighbourhood Policing Team are continuing to carry out regular patrols in the area.

Chief Inspector Phil Lamb said: “If you have any concerns, please come and talk to us.

"Our advice remains the same. Stay vigilant, try to avoid walking anywhere at night on your own and don’t be tempted to look down at your phone or plug your headphones when it's dark. This can limit your awareness of your surroundings."

Anyone with information or CCTV footage which could help should call Hampshire police on 101, quoting Operation Scorch or 44180450724.