Police have mounted an extensive hunt for a suspect after a woman was sexually assaulted in Saanich and forced to withdraw money from a bank machine.
Saanich police have released a video of the suspect, showing a man who pulls a hood over his head as he comes closer to a surveillance camera.
The assault happened Wednesday at a residence on Church Avenue occupied by two women in their 20s, said Saanich police Sgt. Dean Jantzen.
Up to two dozen officers are involved in the investigation, including detectives, patrol officers and forensics specialists.
The incident began with someone banging loudly on the exterior ground-floor door to the women’s suite in a multi-unit building, Jantzen said. The women told police they answered because it seemed like the door was going to come off its hinges.
“Upon answering the door, a male entered quickly and at that point there was a sexual assault that occurred inside the suite,” Jantzen said.
He did not say whether both women were attacked. “It does appear that this specific suite was the target of this incident.”
The man then forced the women to accompany him to a nearby bank machine.
“Under duress, some money was extracted from bank accounts and was turned over to the suspect,” Jantzen said.
The women got away and fled to the Starbucks at Shelbourne Plaza, where staff contacted police about 7:55 p.m.
Jantzen said the women are traumatized.
“The victims, at this point in time, are being well-supported. We are arranging for all appropriate resources for someone who’s been through an incident such as this, and are working closely with the victims to try and gain as much information as possible.”
Jantzen said security video from the women’s building shows a man police believe is the culprit.
“Based upon the description and the time and the location, our investigators are satisfied that this is the individual that we are looking for,” he said. “We are releasing that footage to the public in the hopes that we can advance this investigation.”
Jantzen said police are taking a range of steps in response to the assault.
“We want to say that at this point in time we are out in the community in force, both in plainclothes and in uniform. ”
That includes door-to-door canvassing and talking with schools, the University of Victoria and Camosun College.
The area has been hit by a surge of crime, but police do not know if Wednesday’s attack is connected to earlier incidents. “We’re not excluding anything at this point,” Jantzen said. “This is a very serious incident that may or may not relate to other patterns that have been occurring in that Shelbourne Street area.”
On Tuesday night, a man grabbed a woman while she was walking near Mount Douglas Secondary School. He fled when she screamed. Other crimes include a series of break-and-enters targeting ground-floor suites and a man exposing himself to young women at bus stops. Police said there have been 14 residential break-and-enters in the Shelbourne Street/University Heights corridor since Nov. 25.
The flasher has been linked to at least a dozen incidents around Shelbourne Street and other areas since Dec. 3.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Saanich police tip line at 250-475-4356 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).