By Melissa Clark
A SCHOOLGIRL who leapt into a canal to escape a sex attacker has been praised by police for making a “snap decision” that could have saved her life.
The 15-year-old was followed and attacked after getting off a bus and walking along a remote pathway beside Union Canal on the outskirts of Edinburgh.
The man grabbed her and exposed himself before the quick-thinking teen managed to struggle free and threw herself into the canal.
The attacker ran off and a passing jogger helped haul the traumatised girl from the cold, murky and deep waters of the canal in the village of Ratho.
The working canal is capable for barges and was described as “very deep” in parts by police investigating the crime.
Detective Inspector David Storey said he would not have advised the girl to jump into the potentially dangerous canal, but said it had been the best decision in the end.
Speaking at a press conference today, he said: “I felt that she has used her wits and her best means of escape. It was a good thing to do. It was a snap decision she made and a good decision.
“It could have been a lot worse. I would never offer this as advice, but she made the decision for herself and it turned out well.”
He said the attack had occurred at 5.30pm and that the girl had no injuries.
He added: “A person who had been jogging along helped her and took her to the climbing centre.
“She is coming to terms with it a bit.”
Inquiries are now underway and CCTV footage is being looked at to try and trace the man.
The girl had got off the number X12 bus opposite the Bridge Inn in Ratho and was walking on the path near the Edinburgh International Climbing Centre.
The suspect is described as white, early 20s, slim and about 5ft 8-9ins.
He had short spiky hair and was wearing a grey cardigan with buttons, loose-fitting jeans and was carrying a white should bag at the time of the assault.
Detective Storey said: “This has been a terrible experience for the girl involved, although she escaped any injury she has been understandably shaken as a result.
“She has, however, been able to provide us with a good description of the suspect and so I would appeal for anyone who may recognise him to get in touch.
“Our inquiries are at an early stage, but we believe the suspect may have also got off the bus at Ratho behind the girl, so we are keen to hear from anyone who may have been on the number X12 from Edinburgh last night, and who have seen this man to contact us.”
Local Labour Councillor Ricky Henderson said: “This is absolutely horrific what has happened to this girl.
“I mean, to think she had to put her life at risk by jumping in a canal just to escape an attacker is a horrible thing to imagine.
“I offer my full support to the family and if they need anything from the council then I’m sure all will done to help them as best as possible.”
Anyone with any information regarding the assault should contact Lothian and Borders Police on 0131 311 3131, or the charity, Crimestoppers in confidence and complete anonymity on 0800 555 111.