Attacks scare prostitute off the streets

An experienced prostitute will not be on the street tonight because she fears for her safety after "disgusting and appalling" attacks on two sex workers.

Police are looking at the possibility the same person is responsible for the separate incidents in central Christchurch.

A prostitute was sexually assaulted on an empty section in Bealey Ave, between Manchester and Madras streets, about 3am yesterday.

Two hours later, another prostitute was punched in the grounds of the St Mary's Pro-Cathedral, next to St Mary's School.

Both attacks involved a Maori or Polynesian man.

The victims required medical treatment but they did not suffer serious physical injuries, police said.

A 49-year-old prostitute, who had worked on the streets for decades, was not working on the night of the attacks. However, she believed the same person was responsible for both attacks, and feared he might strike again.

"It's disgusting," the woman, who would not be named, said. "He's a menace to society.

"I'm not working out there . . . until they [police] find him. I want to keep safe."

Prostitutes Collective regional coordinator Anna Reed said she had spoken to the victim of the sexual assault who was "not doing very well".

Reed believed the attack was random and other prostitutes who frequented the area would also be nervous about going to work.

Reed said she'd heard reports of "low-grade violence" on the streets recently but "nothing to this extent".

"A collective shudder goes by whenever anything like this happens," she said.

"We haven't had anything of this nature for a long, long time - probably since Mellory [Manning]."

Detective Senior Sergeant Darryl Sweeney said police were making good progress with their investigation.

"We do get . . . assaults and serious assaults around the working girls. We take them seriously."

The descriptions the victims gave of their attackers were similar, but "not an exact match".

Gang involvement was very unlikely, Sweeney said.

It was "understandable" if some prostitutes feared for their safety after the attacks.

"It's a difficult occupation and it can be a dangerous occupation at times," he said.

Extra police would patrol the area over the weekend and in the coming weeks.

Manning, 27, was last seen touting for business on the corner of Manchester and Peterborough streets on December 18, 2008. Her badly beaten body was found in the Avon River the following morning.

A 26-year-old Mongrel Mob prospect, Mauha Huatahi Fawcett, is on trial for Manning's murder. The jury will deliberate on the verdict next week.

The Press