18-year-old woman raped in Lancaster nightclub just three days after arriving to study at university

editorial image

A young woman was raped in a horrific attack just three days after arriving as a student in the city.

The 18-year-old, at Lancaster University, was pushed into a toilet cubicle at a city centre nightclub.

Now detectives are ploughing through ‘hundreds and hundreds’ of hours of footage from 16 CCTV cameras in the hunt for the rapist, who struck at the Sugarhouse.

Forensics experts have been brought in to look for crucial evidence and an urgent appeal issued to clubbers who may have critical information.

The attack happened during a ‘freshers’ night for new students at around 12.30am on Tuesday, October 1.

The victim, out enjoying her first week with friends from her hall of residence, only moved from the Greater Manchester area three days earlier.

As she was leaving the toilet, she was pushed back inside the cubicle and raped in what police have described as a distressing but rare crime.

A man pictured in CCTV at the venue has become central to the investigation and police have pleaded with anyone who recognises him to come forward.

Detective Superintendent Paul Withers, from Lancashire Police’s Major Investigation Team, told the Guardian: “We are working very hard to view the hundreds and

hundreds of hours of CCTV that we have to view – it’s painstaking – and I have numerous forensic scientists to maximise opportunities that we may have.

DS Paul Withers

DS Paul Withers

“If there were any men in the ladies toilets on that night - for whatever reason whatsoever – please come and speak to us and let us know.

“We do have people working on CCTV and I would rather people came to see us than we come knocking on people’s doors.

“Information will be treated in confidence.”

DS Withers said there were between 1,400 and 1,600 revellers in the club, in Sugar House Alley, off North Road – all potential witnesses.

The Sugarhouse.

The Sugarhouse.

Sugarhouse staff and people who were with the victim have all been interviewed.

The man police have circled in the grainy CCTV images is ‘very important’ to the inquiry, DS Withers said.

He explained: “He is somebody we need to eliminate from our inquiries. He appears to be going into the ladies toilet from the CCTV around the relevant period.”

The man is described as aged 18 to 23, about 6ft tall, with light or fair hair and was wearing a light-coloured top and dark trousers.

DS Withers, pictured left, also urged any women who spoke to the victim in the toilet to get in touch, in particular a second-year female student with blonde hair, believed to be studying law, who possibly spoke with her at the time of the incident.

He added: “We are still trying to reassure the victim and get as much information from her as we can.

“This incident, inside a toilet cubicle, is clearly quite unusual and thankfully it doesn’t happen on a regular basis.

“Her family are here supporting her.

“She is still in Lancaster and trying her best to get back to normal and I applaud her for that.”

Lancaster University, whose students’ union runs the club, confirmed that only students were permitted to enter the club the night in question.

A spokesman said the University and students’ union had actively reinforced personal safety messages and advice to all students.

A statement from the Sugarhouse website read: “We would like to reassure people that security at the Sugarhouse is taken extremely seriously and we are making every effort to ensure it remains a safe environment for students.”