A SERIOUS sexual assault took place on a canal towpath in Cookley this morning.

Police were called to the scene at about 10.45am after a woman was sexually assaulted by a man described as white, aged about 20, with messy dark hair, who may be covered in mud.

A force helicopter and dog handlers are currently searching the area for the offender.

Police are keen to trace any witnesses in particular a cyclist who rode past the victim on the canal towpath shortly before the assault.

He is described as white, in his 60s, with white, curly or shaggy hair, and dark blue jeans, and was riding a mountain bike which had some red on it.

Police believe this man may have information which could help the inquiry and he is asked to come forward.

Detective Inspector Callie Bradley of West Mercia Police said: “Full details of what occurred are still being established, but a serious sexual assault has been reported and an investigation is underway.

“I would like to reassure people that incidents of this nature are rare. A large number of officers, including dog handlers and the force helicopter, are currently searching the area.

“I am urging anyone who saw anything suspicious, or recognises the description of the man, to contact us on the non-emergency number 0300 333 3000 quoting incident 172-s-280414 or ring the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.”