A masked man has been approaching students in Canterbury
Police are no closer to unmasking the man who pounced on a Canterbury student – as it emerged dozens of the masks used in the attack are being sold by city fancy dress shops in the run-up to Halloween.
Detectives have identified the person behind some of the masked man sightings in the city, but the prowler who grabbed a lone woman is still on the loose.
A 15-year-old boy, who was helping officers with their investigation, has been confirmed as the person captured on CCTV wearing the sinister horror mask - apparently inspired by the film V for Vendetta - on several occasions.
But detectives have still not found the man responsible for targeting 19-year-old student Stephanie Shepherd in the Longport area on Friday, October 11.
Police said there were no independent witnesses to the attack and want anyone with information to come forward.
The hunt is set to get increasingly complex as Halloween and bonfire night approaches.
Ch Insp Mark Arnold said: "A number of local shops in Canterbury have been selling the V for Vendetta masks in the past several weeks and dozens have been sold.
"While it's not unusual for people to be wearing fancy dress, including masks, I would warn everyone to celebrate responsibly and not do anything which may cause alarm, distress or fear to others."
The Halloween Warehouse, in Canterbury's St Peter's Street, sells the V for Vendetta mask
Shops that stock the mask include The Dressing Room in Northgate, but staff cannot recall anyone buying one and say they have not been visited by the police in relation to the masked stalker.
Marlowe Costumes, off Roper Road, also sells a mask and hat set for £21, and The Emporium in St Peter's Street displays the outfit in the window.
An image of the masked man released by police as patrols are stepped up
The Emporium's manager Julie Clifton, who has transformed the clothes shop into the Halloween Warehouse for the whole of October, says she sells between two and three of the masks every day.
She said: "We sell all sorts of Halloween masks. It's just a bit of fun for Halloween and it's a shame someone is using it not for its intended purpose. I don't want to encourage violence or intimidation."
It is not known if the attacker bought the mask from the Halloween Warehouse, but Julie has offered to show police CCTV footage if it helps with their investigation.
The suspect is described as white, 5ft 11in tall, skinny and wearing a black hooded top, dark jeans and a white V for Vendetta mask – similar to the one seen in the CCTV images.
There have been many other sightings of people in the city wearing masks, but no other attacks have been reported.
Mr Arnold added: "I would urge all students to follow the safety advice, particularly to stick to well-lit areas, avoid shortcuts and avoid travelling alone at night and report any suspicious incidents where someone makes an approach or tries to touch you."
Canterbury district commander Ch Insp Mark Arnold
Meanwhile, a 22-year-old man arrested last Monday in connection with the sightings has been interviewed and bailed until Monday, November 11.
Anyone with information is urged to phone police on 101 or the investigating team on 01227 868278.
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