A SEX attacker who carried out a vicious assault on a vulnerable young woman is at large in Hereford.

He struck as the woman walked along a River Wye towpath on the night of Monday, September 1.

Threatening to harm her if she didn't co-operate, she was pulled on to rough ground joining Belmont Avenue and subjected to a serious sexual assault. She was then made to act 'normally' while her attacker accompanied her towards Hunderton.

This week Hereford Police set up a major incident room working around the clock on the case and have released an e-fit of the man they believe carried out the attack.

Det Chief Insp Dave Morgan, leading the investigation, said: "This is a particularly vicious assault in which force and violence were used against a vulnerable young lady. It is important we arrest the offender as soon as possible."

The woman's ordeal began at about 9.30pm as she was walking home after an evening out in the city.

Heading from St Martins towards the old railway-bridge, she was approached by a man who earlier had passed her on a bicycle.

Now on foot, the man confronted and threatened the victim before subjecting her to a terrifying sexual assault.

Following the attack, the woman was forced to walk along the towpath while her assailant followed with his cycle.

Their route took them into Luard Walk, Lewis Smith Avenue, then Rogers Avenue, Wallace Avenue and into Hunderton Road where the man made off.

The woman has described her attacker as bearded, with dark eyebrows, white, late teens to early 30s, 5ft 6ins, slim to medium build with black or brown short, spikey hair in a crew cut. He has a local accent and wore a black padded jacket and dark jeans. His bike had a white seat and tyres.

Police are appealing for the people of Hereford to help. "We need to hear from everybody who was in the tow path area along this part of the River Wye around 9.30pm to 9.50pm on Monday, September 1, whether they saw either the offender or the victim, or not," said Det Chief Insp Morgan.

Contact Hereford Police Station on 08457 444888 extension 4566 or out of hours on 08457 444888.