Are women safe to use paths alongside the canal and river in Leeds?

WOMEN using canal and river paths in Leeds have been urged to be vigilant after two attempted sex attacks in three days.
Police at the scene on the Leeds Liverpool canal near Armley. 
Picture: Jonathan GawthorpePolice at the scene on the Leeds Liverpool canal near Armley. 
Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Police at the scene on the Leeds Liverpool canal near Armley. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Police are exploring possible links between an incident next to the River Aire, in Kirkstall, on Monday evening and a similar assault less than a mile away on the Leeds Liverpool Canal on Wednesday morning.

In both cases the victims were grabbed by the arm before being put in a headlock. Both managed to escape relatively unscathed.

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Det Chief Insp Elizabeth Belton, who is investigating the incidents, said: “People will obviously be concerned in relation to the nature of the attacks we have had.

“There is an element of maturity that’s needed. What I would say is pick your times and days when you are coming on to the canal and what you’re doing and if at all possible be in pairs or be careful of who you are approaching or seeing. If there is someone who makes you nervous by all means call the police.

“Police will be providing increased reassurance to members of the public and the last thing I want is for people to live their lives through fear.”

In the first attack a 23-year-old woman was leaving Pure gym, off Redcote Lane, when she was grabbed at about 5.50pm on Monday.

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She escaped after fighting back and is believed to have scratched her attacker on his face.

The predator ran off after a man rode past on a bicycle. The cyclist has since come forward to speak to police.

The incident happened close to a bridge that is known as a haven for drinkers and drug takers and it is thought police are exploring whether it is linked to regulars who congregate there.

Det Chief Insp Belton said: “This was clearly a very frightening experience for the victim and we can only speculate as to what might have happened had she not fought back and her attacker been disturbed.

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“We are investigating this incident as an attempted serious sexual assault and it is vital that we identify and trace her attacker at the earliest opportunity.”

In the second incident, the 39-year-old victim was jogging near to a lock on the stretch of canal towpath between the A58 inner ring road and Viaduct Road in Kirkstall when she was grabbed.

She escaped and called police.

Both women are said to have been left “shocked” but not badly hurt.

Chief Supt Paul Money, Leeds district police commander, said: “We fully appreciate that incidents of this nature will understandably cause concern in the community.

“We are conducting extensive enquiries into both incidents and officers from the local neighbourhood policing teams are mounting increased patrols in both areas to provide visible reassurance.”