A woman who was subjected to a horrific, early morning sex attack at a West Lothian house was only staying there because she was in the middle of moving home, detectives have revealed.
The 39-year-old victim was temporarily living with her brother-in-law and his young son in Livingston when the attacker sneaked into the luxury, detached home early on Saturday.
Detectives have also revealed that the attacker ordered the other occupants – a terrified man and his son – at knife point into a room before subjecting his victim to an hour-long ordeal.
The attacker tried to gain entry to at least three – and possibly four – homes nearby in the hour before eventually finding an insecure door or window at the attack address, police confirmed.
The incident, in Oakwood Park, Deans, Livingston, is causing so much concern that officers who specialise in tracking down sex offenders have been drafted into help.
The squad is also examining UK-wide records in a bid to establish whether the attacker has struck before.
The victim has described her attacker as 6ft, in his 20s, with short dark hair, ‘chunky’ sideburns, and wearing a cream ‘hoodie’ top with the word ‘Crosshatch’ across the chest, and a large pouch at the front. He also wore a blue baseball cap, and jogging bottoms.
Detective Inspector Alan Somerville, who is leading the investigation, said: “We believe that our suspect has been trying doors, and knocking doors, in the hour before. I know of three, and possibly, four [addresses]. I do not think that he targeted a particular house.”
DI Somerville said some residents looked out of their window and saw a man whose description was consistent with the attacker.
He said reports that the victims were a couple and their child were wrong, adding: “It is the brother-in-law and his child. The victim has been staying there between house moves.”
DI Somerville confirmed that the man and his child were forced into a separate part of the house while the attack was carried out, which he said happened over the course of about an hour.
He added: “We are devoting our full resources towards identifying and tracing the suspect, and a dedicated team of detectives is now working from Livingston Police Station, including officers from Operation Federal, the dedicated sexual crimes unit in West Lothian.
“We are also undertaking regular high-visibility patrols in the area where the attack took place, in order to provide reassurance to local residents.”
DI Somerville urged people in the area to keep their doors and windows locked.
“In addition, we are renewing our appeal for any information that can help us identify and trace the suspect. Anyone who was in the area of Oakwood Park early on Saturday morning, who noticed anyone acting suspiciously there, should contact police immediately.
“Similarly, anyone who thinks they have seen the suspect since the attack took place, or who recognises his description, should get in touch as a matter of urgency.”
It is understood that detectives are studying a number of CCTV tapes taken from the homes of neighbours.
Many of the properties in the street are worth in excess of £300,000 and several have security systems, including CCTV.
One house with CCTV is only 25 metres from the house where the attack took place and police are studying the footage in the hope it contains and usable image of the attacker.
One neighbour, who lives very close to the house, said: “We didn’t hear anything. I got up on Saturday as normal and looked out of the door and saw about four police vans and an incident control van outside. I said to my wife that this was not just a break-in.
“The police came round and we were interviewed separately about whether we saw anything.
“This is quite a peaceful street. We had a meeting a few months ago when someone reported seeing a guy trying doors in the street but I don’t think that had anything to do with this.”
He added: “That poor woman will never be the same and the boy will be so traumatised.
“It is hard to believe something like that could happen here.”
Another neighbour said their house, also close to the scene, had been broken into about two years ago.
He said: “I’ve lived here for five years and always left the door open, even after someone broke in. It was just a break-in – we were out at the time. We are not leaving the door open now.”
Anyone with any information was asked to contact Lothian and Borders Police on 0131 311 3131, or Crimestoppers in confidence and complete anonymity on 0800 555 111.
REPORT: Peter Laing