Students voice concern over assaults

STUDENTS from Essex University marched by candlelight last night to highlight their concerns about the number of assaults taking place near the campus.

STUDENTS from Essex University marched by candlelight last night to highlight their concerns about the number of assaults taking place near the campus.

The sight aimed to draw attention to a lack of street lighting on a route regularly used by undergraduates walking to the university.

It came in the wake of two attacks within half an hour of each other on Tuesday evening as students journeyed between the university and the nearby Tesco supermarket.

Last night, a large group of undergraduates gathered at the main gate of the Avon Way House halls of residence on the Greenstead Estate before walking along the much-used route to campus, through an underpass and along the side of St. Andrew's Avenue.

It was the second year of the candlelit event and the students revealed they feared more people would be seriously hurt if the problem was not addressed.

Charlie King, 20, the equal opportunities officer at the university, said men and women had been targeted and a high number of overseas students had also suffered.

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She said: "There have been several incidents which have been dealt with by the police and probably many more that are not reported because people are too scared.

"It is often groups of 16-year-olds from the Greenstead area causing it and students have been harassed and assaulted.

"It is frustrating and upsetting because I care very much for the students here and the fact that their safety is being infringed this way makes me angry."

She added there had been one incident when a group of students had bought a car just for their trips to the supermarket because of the troubles.

It is hoped there will be a greater provision of CCTV cameras and better lighting in order to help combat the problem.

Last night, Tim Young, a Labour councillor for the St. Andrew's ward, said the funding had been agreed for lighting in the underpass.

He said: "The students may not have been made aware yet but the funding has been made available for the lighting in the underpass. It is to be welcomed although it is long overdue."

The two students involved in the latest incidents were attacked within half an hour of each other.

In the first incident a mother raised the alarm after a mobile telephone conversation with her student son ended abruptly as he walked towards Tesco in Greenstead Road at around 10.30pm.

Two men, who had split off from a group of five, accosted the student. They kicked and punched him in the face and made off with his phone.

The pair were described as both white and in their late teens. One was about 5ft 9ins tall and wearing denim jeans. The other man was of a thin build and wearing a T-shirt.

Thirty minutes later another student lost his glasses when two men punched him in the face as he walked in the opposite direction towards the university.

These men were described as in their 20s with one being 6ft tall and of a broad build. He had a shaven head and had a ginger/blond beard, which was shaved to a point.

Police said this man was carrying a mobile phone with him and talking into it throughout the attack.

His accomplice was described as about 5ft 10ins tall with cropped dark hair and of slim build.

Det Sgt Roger Napier, of Colchester police, said it was likely that the two attacks were linked and warned students not to walk alone in the area.

Anyone with information should call Colchester police on 01206 762212.

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