“You hear about things like this happening but never think it will happen to you. I felt numb, angry and disgusting.”
These are the words of a woman who was raped in Leeds city centre – and whose attacker is still at large.
Her harrowing experience was shared on national television today as a police renewed their appeal for information on BBC One’s Crimewatch Roadshow.
An actress read out excerpts from a victim impact statement by the woman, who was given the name of ‘Helen’ for the purposes of a reconstruction interspersed with CCTV footage from August 14.
Helen had been drinking in a city centre bar with a friend and left between 4am and 5am.
“If I’m honest, I can’t quite remember my exact route home but I would normally walk straight along Lower Briggate onto Briggate,” she said.
“It’s all a bit hazy, but I do remember a black man approaching me and trying to start up a conversation.
“At that time I thought it was just best to talk to him, mainly for my own safety. Had I not spoken to him, he could’ve been even more aggressive with me.”
The footage shows the man first approaching her in Kirkgate and walking along with her until they reach Dortmund Square.
“I remember walking past the barrel man statue in Dortmund Square,” she said. “Then somehow we went off to the right when I was meant to go off to the left to get home.”
The CCTV images then show the terrifying moment at around 5am when the suspect picked Helen up and carried her off. Once in Mark Lane, next to the St John’s shopping centre, he attacked her.
Helen said: “After the attack I felt as though I had lost my self worth. I find it hard to sleep, I have constant flashbacks, I didn’t want to leave my house alone. I felt so nervous all the time.
“I want this person to understand that his actions that night were totally unacceptable.”
A trawl of CCTV footage throughout the city centre unearthed images of the suspect at various locations.
He is shown loitering in a car park at the back of the Malmaison hotel in Swinegate at around 4.40am before approaching a woman on Swinegate at 4.45am. He is also seen walking along Briggate.
Detective Superintendent Pat Twiggs, head of crime for Leeds District, said: “It’s absolutely vital we find out who this man is. He’s clearly a very dangerous individual.
“We can’t exclude the fact he’s done this before or he might do it again in future.”
The footage also showed the suspect approaching another woman in Swinegate at around 4.45am. He appeared to try putting his arm around her.
At the same time, a man walked past and a taxi drove past and stopped nearby.
Police are keen to speak to these people and anyone else who has information that could help the investigation.
Det Supt Twiggs said: “If you recognise this man or have concerns about people, we have the means to eliminate people – we have a DNA profile of this suspect.”
The suspect is black, over 6ft tall, well built and aged 30 to 40. He wore a long black coat and smart, dark clothing.
Crimewatch Roadshow was broadcast on BBC One at 9.15am today and is available to watch here until 10am tomorrow.
Anyone with information on the identity of the suspect is asked to call 101 or Crimestoppers in confidence on 0800 555 111.