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A 38-year-old man arrested in connection with a rape in Botley has been released without charge, as police step up patrols in the area.

Detectives said they were also no longer linking the incident to a crash in Wytham at about 11pm on Tuesday.

It prompted a fresh appeal by Thames Valley Police for information about the incident, which happened between about 7.45pm and 8.10pm on Tuesday.

The force said the victim, a woman, was walking along Harcourt Hill when she was forced at knifepoint into Raleigh Park.

The balaclava-clad man raped her in what police have described as an 'appalling offence'. 

At least two forensic tents have been put up in the park and a cordon on the hill is still in place.

Officers have been combing the path outside homes within the cordon throughout the morning.

Senior investigating officer Det Insp Jim Holmes said: “We are determined to find the offender of this serious offence but we need the public’s help.

thisisoxfordshire:

  • Thames Valley Police is stepping up patrols in Botley after the rape

“Our priority remains the victim and she continues to be supported by our specially trained officers at this horrendous time.

“We are in the early stages of a complex investigation but I can reassure the public that we are working tirelessly to bring the offender to justice."

There would be an increased police presence in the area, including a scenewatch and high-visibility foot patrols by officers, he added.

“We are also conducting house to house enquiries near the scene, undertaking forensic work and obtaining and reviewing CCTV. All of which is meticulous work but essential to this investigation", Mr Holmes said.

The rapist is described as a white muscular man, around 30-years-old, just under 6ft tall. He was wearing dark black clothing with a hood up, and a balaclava covering the lower part of his face.

Meanwhile, police said they were also seeking information about vehicles being driven 'eratically' on the A34 northbound near Botley or Wytham, after 8.30pm on Tuesday. 

They also said drivers may have also seen items thrown from a vehicle.

A Harcourt Hill resident said: "It is just so shocking, it's a very quiet area.

"I have a 21 year old daughter who always goes out to walk the dog, I won't be letting her now.

"Some times although it's a quiet area because of the presence of students maybe it makes it more of a target for criminals."

LPA Commander for South and Vale, Supt Rory Freeman, said: “This is an appalling offence and our priority is the victim, who is being supported by specially trained officers.

“Residents will see an increased police presence in the area, including a scenewatch and foot patrols by officers.

"If you have any concerns please do not hesitate to speak to a police officer or police community support officer."

Anyone with information can call 101 quoting reference 1278 (10/1) or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111

thisisoxfordshire:

  • A large police presence at the scene 

About a dozen police cars were parked on Harcourt Hill just off the A34 yesterday morning

Officers has set up floodlights and a forensic tent, which was taken down at about midday. 

Police have not yet confirmed the age of the victim.

Residents reported seeing a large police arrive presence on Tuesday night around 9pm, with a helicopter also heard over Botley.

Nearby resident Ben Hill said: "My housemate and I were driving up the hill to the gym at Oxford Brookes at about 6.20am.

"Half way up the hill were three police cars and a police van.

"They had cordoned off a house, and police were stopping drivers heading up the hill. They asked us where we were going before letting us through."

Tape was wrapped around trees next to the park and also cordons off part of a footpath opposite the trees, which officers were not allowing passers-by to walk on. 

Cars and bikes were being allowed to pass between the cordons but not pedestrians. 

A neighbour who lives opposite the scene said she heard police cars arrive at around 9pm last night and they blocked off the hill.

The woman, who did not want to be named, said: "My husband went out and shouted to the policeman 'has there been an incident?' and he said 'yes, it's pretty serious'." 

He then advised him to go back inside and police cars stayed all night. 

She added: "It's a lovely park, nice and open. The are lots of dog walkers that use it.

"It's normally so quiet around here. To have this literally on your doorstep is quite scary, I feel quite nervous. Is somebody at large?"

She said the park is not lit at night. 

A university student living at nearby Westminster Hall, on the Harcourt Hill campus, said there was a 'major police presence' at the halls at about 11.20pm on Tuesday night. 

She said: "I was watching television and saw two police cars pulling up outside reception. 

"About a dozen officers walked to the back of the halls with two girls, and they came out with three evidence bags." 

She said she initially thought it was a drugs raid but then heard about the rape. Police have not yet confirmed that they were at the halls last night or if it was linked to the rape. 

The first year student, 18, said she and her friends were 'shocked' by the rape and concerned for their safety. 

She added: "My friends are all telling each other not to go out in their own."

Oxford Brookes University spokeswoman Natalie Gidley said: "The university is aware of police presence close to the Harcourt Hill campus this morning and is cooperating with any enquiries as required. 

"We will not be making any further comment at this stage and any enquiries will need to be directed towards Thames Valley Police."

Readers reported seeing the police cordon and cars being stopped by officers as they passed the scene early yesterday morning.

Oxford Bus Company had stopped its buses through the area.  

Police officers were still on the scene at 1.30pm. 

Lisa Ward, director of the Oxfordshire Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre, advised anyone impacted by the incident to call the centre on 01865 726295.

*Thames Valley Police initially said the time was 8.15pm and that the man was wearing a hat