Northern Ireland news

'Be vigilant' police urge public as man on bicycle attacks five women in Belfast

One of the women was attacked on Ormeau Avenue in Belfast city centre. Picture by Google Maps 
Digital Staff

Police have urged people to "be vigilant" after five women were attacked by a man on a bicycle at separate locations across Belfast last night.

Five young women were assaulted - three of them stabbed with a small knife - by a man on a mountain bike.

The attacks were carried out in south Belfast and the city centre.

PSNI Chief Superintendent Simon Walls said some of the victims were walking on their own when the attacks took place.

They stabbing victims suffered wounds to the neck, another was stabbed in the arm and one in the back of the leg. The other women were punched.

“The five victims were not all alone. Three victims received medical attention and are all home now. I don’t believe there was any confrontation and the male was on a bicycle to escape quickly,” CS Walls added. 

CS Walls urged people to "be vigilant" and said there were additional police officers on the streets today.

"Know where you are. Try and go out with a friend or in groups. Make sure that wherever you're going people know where you're going and what time you'll be home. Carry your mobile phone and if anyone feels unsafe, if they feel frightened or think sonmething is going to happen, dial police on 999".

The three women who were stabbed received hospital treatment.

Police said the three victims were attacked over the course of two hours while walking along streets in the city centre.

The first attack took place on Ormeau Avenue at around 8.10pm.

A second attack was reported on Donegall Square West at around 9pm, followed by a third on University Road at around 10pm.

CS Walls said a woman was "punched in the neck" on the Upper Lisburn Road near Dunluce Avenue at around 9pm and police believe the same man was responsble.

“A fifth incident was reported this morning whereby a female was punched to the head on the Dublin Road at around 9pm yesterday evening by a male on a bicycle and we believe this report may be linked to the other four incidents," he added

“All four women are aged between 19 and 22.

“The injuries sustained were minor and not life threatening, however, this does not take away from the seriousness of these incidents. These were frightening random attacks for these young women but thankfully incidents like this are extremely rare. 

"I want to reassure the community that officers will be carrying out additional patrols across the city centre and doing everything we can to arrest this man.

"Detectives are currently conducting extensive CCTV enquiries throughout the relevant areas across the city and would appeal to any drivers who were in these areas at these times to review dash cam footage, and for any business owners in the relevant areas to review their CCTV."

The man is described as wearing dark clothing, possibly wearing a hooded top, cycling a  mountain bike which may have a light coloured frame and reflectors on the spokes. Police said they believed the man may have been wearing a black mask.

SDLP South Belfast MP Claire Hanna said: “I was horrified to learn that last night, three women were attacked over the course of two hours, while walking on the streets of Belfast.

“Our first thoughts are with the victims who sustained stab wounds and have been hospitalised. While their injuries are not thought to be life threatening, this was undoubtedly a highly distressing incident and my thoughts are with them.

“Nobody should feel unsafe on the streets of Belfast and the local community are shocked and upset at this attack. I urge anyone with any information to come forward to the PSNI.”

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