A 17-year-old girl was sexually assaulted three separate times in the space of one hour by up to five men, police in London have said.
The victim, who may have been drugged, was making her way home after a night out in east London on a Friday night in September when she became separated from her friends, the Metropolitan police said.
Based on a series of CCTV recordings, detectives believe the girl was attacked in quick succession by at least three men in separate incidents, the last of which possibly involved two other men as well.
Her ordeal began shortly before midnight on Friday 29 September, and continued for the next hour until a member of the public spotted the girl lying on the ground in a state of distress, and called the police.
The Met said CCTV – the quality of which is too poor to release – showed a man in dark clothing, identified as suspect 1, carrying the girl down Cambridge Heath Road in Tower Hamlets at 11:55pm that night.
They can be seen going into a doorway on that road, after which the man is not seen again on the CCTV. Items of the girl's clothing were later found in that location.
After midnight, another camera picked up the girl walking down Mint Street, followed by another man, suspect 2, on a racing bike.
He followed her along that road and into Three Colts Lane towards Bethnal Green Overground station. CCTV in that area shows him approaching her at Corfield Street and directing her into an area away from the road. He is then seen leaving and walking away, and when the girl reappears on CCTV her clothing appears dishevelled.
At around 12:45am, with the girl walking down Corfield Street, detectives believe she was assaulted for a third time, in an incident involving up to three men.
One of the men, identified as suspect 3, appears to bend down towards a spot on the kerb between parked cards, and police believe this is when the victim was sexually assaulted again. Suspect 3 is seen walking unevenly, with a distinctive gait, and is possibly bow-legged.
Shortly after this the girl was found by the member of the public who rang police, and took the victim to receive specialist support.
Police say they are urgently appealing for witnesses to the incident, and are awaiting the results of toxicology tests to determine whether the victim had been drugged.
Map of the incidents
Detective Inspector Suzanne Jordan, from the Met's child abuse and sexual offences command, said: "This is a horrific multiple sexual assault on an young female who was simply making her way home after a night out. We would like to thank the members of the public who intervened to help her and possibly prevented her ordeal from continuing even further."
She added: "We believe two of the three were very serious sexual assaults indeed, and are determined to catch the persons responsible for these hideous crimes. I would urge anyone who recognises either male in these images to contact us as a matter of urgency.
"We'd also like to speak to any witnesses who haven't already come forward, or anyone with any information at all however insignificant they believe it might be – it could prove crucial to progressing our enquiries."
Matthew Champion is a deputy world news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Matthew Champion at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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