THE POLICE Service of Northern Ireland have issued an urgent appeal for information after five women were assaulted in a series of random attacks in Belfast.
According to the PSNI, the attacks began at around 8pm last night, Tuesday 13 October, and continued for over an hour.
Speaking at a press briefing this morning, Musgrave Police Station Belfast area co-ordinator Chief Superintendent Simon Walls said:
“The first stabbing incident occurred at approximately 8.10pm on Ormeau Avenue. The second occurred at 8.45pm on Donegall Square West and the third occurred at approximately 9.30pm on University Road.
“The three women were all taken to hospital for treatment to their injuries which are not believed to be life threatening.
“A fourth incident was reported to police where a female was punched in the neck on the Lisburn Road near Dunluce Avenue at around 9pm and we believe this to have been carried out by the same man.
“A fifth incident was reported this morning whereby a female was punched to the head on the Dublin Road at around 8.55pm yesterday evening by a male on a bicycle and we believe this report may be linked to the other four incidents.
“All five women are aged between 19 and 22."
It is understood that three of the women sustained stab wounds and two others were treated for injuries after being punched by the unknown assailant.
No arrests have been made, but the suspect is described as a male 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 believe he may have been wearing a black mask at the time of the attacks.
While the victims' injuries are not life threatening, Superintendent Walls said "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."
Officers are performing CCTV checks and enquiries in the areas in which the attacks were reported, and have urged any witnesses, including motorists who were in the area at the time who may have dash-cam footage, or business owners with CCTV footage, to contact them immediately.
Anyone with information which could lead to the arrest of the suspect is asked to contact police at Lisburn Road on 101, or submit a report online using this form.
Any witnesses who wish to remain anonymous can also contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or online (here).