Two women have been attacked in the same area of central Wellington in less than 24 hours, leading to fears a serial sexual predator is at work.
"Fortunately in both cases the young women have screamed and run off, but we are very determined to catch this guy before something really serious happens," Detective Senior Sergeant Warwick McKee of the Wellington District Crime Squad said.
The attacks have led Victoria University students to call for better security on a set of stairs leading to the City to Sea stairs from the Terrace to the Boyd Wilson Field, an area students call "Rape Alley".
In the first incident, a woman was attacked as she walked home from the city about 1.55am on Saturday. She screamed and fought off the man, who ran down towards The Terrace.
The offender was described as European, of medium build, about 180cm tall, with light-coloured facial hair, and wearing a grey-hooded sweatshirt.
The second attack happened on The Terrace at 12.50am on Sunday, near the scene of the first incident.
A woman had walked from town with two other people after reading reports about the first incident. However, she was attacked on a path leading to her house.
The man spoke briefly before indecently assaulting the woman, who escaped and fled inside.
Police believed there was "a strong possibility" the two attacks were linked, McKee said.
The description of the offender was similar in both cases, as was the time the attacks happened.
McKee appealed for women and students not to walk through the area alone. "Please travel home from the city in a taxi or walk with your friends so you are not alone."
Police had increased their presence in the area and would be working with Victoria University to make it safer.
In July, Victoria University students told The Dominion Post about feeling unsafe on the poorly lit walkway between The Terrace and Boyd Wilson Field, afterseveral incidents.
Victoria University student Lucy Moss-Mason has started an online petition for increased police patrols, better lighting and more CCTV cameras. It had 200 signatures by yesterday afternoon.
While some safety improve ments had been made, they had not gone far enough, she said. "We feel the response was not in proportion to the danger."
Fellow student Sofia Roberts, 19, said the area was so dodgy that it had become known as "Rape Alley". "Women want to be able to walk there safely. It's their right."
Wellington City Council spokesman Richard MacLean said the council had recently discussed the walkway with police and Victoria University. Some foliage had been removed, and better lighting was planned, he said.
Victoria University director of campus services Jenny Bentley said students were regularly told not to use the pathway alone.
The university, council and police were working on measures to improve the area, she said.
These included cutting back greenery to improve visibility, better lighting, CCTV, installing or extending pedestrian barriers, and safety messages to students.
Police asked for anyone with information to call (04) 472 3000 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 274 637.
- Fairfax Media