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Home   Canterbury   News   Article

Pair quizzed over masked menace stalking female Christ Church University students in Canterbury

16 October 2013
by Alex Claridge

Police have stepped up patrols after masked man targets students

An image of the masked man released by police as patrols are stepped up

Two people have been questioned by police investigating sightings of a prowler in a horror mask stalking women in Canterbury.

Detectives believe a 15 year-old boy - who was taken to a police station by his father and helped officers with their inquiries - is the person in CCTV images issued earlier this week.

Meanwhile, a 22 year-old man arrested on Monday night over the sightings has been interviewed and bailed pending further inquiries.

Detectives are also following up new lines of inquiry as they try to identify a masked man who grabbed a female student on Friday night.

It comes after two more reported sightings last night of the masked prowler, who has been stalking female Christ Church University students.

Detectives believe there could be several men donning sinister horror masks, apparently inspired by the film V for Vendetta, and targeting students.

They stepped up night-time patrols in the city after a spate of reports of a masked man causing alarm by following young women - and grabbing at least one.

DI Andrew Bidmead, from Kent Police, said: "I'd like to thank everybody who has phoned in with information. Detectives are currently following up on these new lines of enquiry.

"Once again I would urge all students follow the safety advice, particularly to stick to well-lit areas, avoid short cuts and avoid travelling alone at night.

"I know it's nearly Halloween and bonfire night and it's not unusual to wear fancy dress at this time of year, but I would warn everyone to celebrate responsibly and not do anything which may cause alarm, distress or fear to others."

Masked man has been approaching students in Canterbury

A CCTV image of a masked man approaching students in Canterbury

Earlier, two students told how they saw a masked man around Canterbury last night.

He was spotted close to Kent College, an independent school, walking towards Blean at around 5.30pm and then near Military Road at just before 11pm.

Student Charlotte Wilson saw someone in a mask in Whitstable Road near Kent College and says he was with another man.

She said: "He was in the V for Vendetta mask with a blonde spiked haired boy, heading uphill towards Blean.

"The masked man was in a hoody and both boys in trackies."

Reported sightings of V for Vendetta mask sightings in Canterbury

Reports of V for Vendetta mask sightings in Canterbury

Phil Mooney, president of the Christ Church students' union, today urged his members to take care when out.

"We have launched a combined response to these incidents to raise awareness and to promote safe practice amongst our students," he said.

The masked man appears to have been inspired by Hugo Weaving's character in film V For Vendetta

The masked man appears to have been inspired by Hugo Weaving's character in film V For Vendetta

"This response includes targeted messages on our website and through our social media channels alongside our existing welfare and safety campaigns."

Another female student, who was too scared to be named, said yesterday: "We've got absolutely no idea who it is doing it or why, but it is scaring people. 

"I've heard people saying that there were at least four sightings of him last night. Most of us are too frightened to have our names attached to it."
Fellow student Alex Matthews, 19, said: "It's got everyone really freaked out. My girlfriend lives in a house full of girls and they won't go out in groups of less than four.
"If I go with them, I always make sure I've got taxi money for them."
The sinister figure has been menacing female students by approaching or following them near the city centre or Christ Church University since last Wednesday.

But Kent Police took several days to issue a public statement yesterday on the string of incidents - despite media requests for information last Friday.

Detectives released CCTV images of a man - wearing a Guy Fawkes mask apparently inspired by the film V for Vendetta and wearing a hooded top - as he walked through the Buttermarket and High Street areas of Canterbury on Wednesday, October 9.

Insp Gordon Etheridge, from Kent Police

Insp Gordon Etheridge, from Kent Police

Police said the suspicious incidents of a masked man in Canterbury include:

At 8.35pm on Wednesday, October 9 a suspicious man in a mask followed a woman and her friend from Spring Lane to Christ Church

At 9.05pm on Thursday, October 10 a woman reported that she has seen a man in a ‘Saw’ mask loitering in the St Martin’s Hill area.

He took the mask off a couple of times and is described as white, around 5ft 8in tall, of slim build and was wearing a black hooded top and jeans.

Around 11pm on Friday, October 11, when Miss Shepherd left the student union to walk home on her own.

"It's got everyone really freaked out. My girlfriend lives in a house full of girls and they won't go out in groups of less than four..." - student Alex Matthews

She noticed a man emerge from a side road next to the Paddocks and opposite the junction with North Holmes Road and St Martin’s Hill and started to follow her up North Holmes Road.

She decided to turn back towards Longport/St Martin’s Hill and the man continued to follow her.

A short while later, he grabbed her at the junction of North Holmes Road and Longport/St Martin’s Hill.

She managed to push him away and he ran off along Spring Lane. The suspect was described as white, 5ft 11in tall, of skinny build, wearing a black hooded top, dark jeans and a white mask.

At 7pm on Saturday, October 12 a woman and some friends were walking to the gym at the university when a group of men passed them and one was wearing a mask, but nothing happened.

Insp Gordon Etheridge, from Kent Police, said: "We are working closely with Canterbury Christ Church University and the community to investigate and raise awareness of these incidents and to provide personal safety advice to students, particularly women.

"Incidents of this nature can cause a great deal of alarm but and we have a number of extra officers on patrol in the city in both uniform and plainclothes to provide reassurance and to deal with any suspicious incidents.

"I would urge everyone to socialise responsibly and take extra steps to avoid risks.”

Canterbury Christ Church University is urging students to be extra careful when walking around Canterbury at night.
Canterbury Christ Church University

Afua Boake-Ansah was a student at Canterbury Christ Church University

Its security team have stepped up patrols close to the university as the search for menace continues.
Safety advice issued by university includes sticking to well-lit and busy areas, particularly at night - and avoiding shortcuts through isolated areas.
It also urged students to avoid travelling alone at night, plan their route before leaving as well as to look and act confidently.
"We will be monitoring the situation very closely and maintain contact with Kent Police, so that we can respond as a matter of urgency to their advice and investigation..." - Lee Soden, Canterbury Christ Church University
Lee Soden, director of facilities management at the university, said: "The university is concerned about the recent spate of incidents around the Canterbury campus area and, in partnership with the Students' Union, has been issuing personal safety advice to students and staff, as well as working closely with Kent Police in helping with its ongoing investigation.
"In addition to the police patrols, the university's own security team patrols have increased around the campus, and neighbouring areas, during the day and at night. This will continue for the foreseeable future.

"Meanwhile, we will be monitoring the situation very closely and maintain contact with Kent Police, so that we can respond as a matter of urgency to their advice and investigation." 

A Guy Fawkes mask similar to the one used by the Canterbury stalker was worn by the main character in the film V For Vendetta.
The 2006 movie, starring Hugo Weaving, sees V succeed in blowing up the Houses of Parliament on November 5.
The mask has since become a global symbol of protest, particularly with the Occupy movement. 
Police are urging anyone with information to phone 101 or the investigating team on 01227 868278.

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