News / Vancouver

UBC sex assault may be linked to lurker in student residences: RCMP

University RCMP say the sexual assault of a University of British Columbia student may be related to a prowler in the female residences at Vanier and Totem.

Students walk on the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver campus in November 2015.

Emily Jackson / Metro Order this photo

Students walk on the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver campus in November 2015.

Mounties believe a violent sexual assault of a student on the University of British Columbia’s isolated Vancouver campus Friday night may be related to a string of recent “late night prowler events” in female sections of two nearby student residences.

University RCMP responded to a 911 call from a 20-year-old student who was attacked from behind by a stranger when she was walking in the 3200 block of Wesbrook Mall on Friday night around 10 p.m.

The man suddenly emerged from a treed area before grabbing her and violently shaking her, forcing her face first to the ground, according to a statement from University RCMP spokesman Sgt. Drew Grainger. The man proceeded to rub himself against the woman before she managed to fight him off and he fled the scene. She sustained bruises on the side of her head from an open-handed hit.

Police describe the suspect as a darker skinned, slender, 5-foot-10 man in his mid- to late-20s. He wore dark clothing, possibly a hoodie, and smelled of tobacco.

The description matches that of a man who has reportedly been lurking in female showers and residential rooms at Vanier Place and Totem Park residences over the past week, according to police, who believe the incidents may be linked.

The man has been spotted five times since last Wednesday, Mar. 23 in a series of what police are calling “late night prowler events.” No sexual assaults were reported in any of these incidents, where the lurker fled upon being caught by student residents.

University RCMP, campus security and the Lower Mainland RCMP are working together to investigate the incidents. Police are reminding anyone walking on campus at night to be vigilant of their surroundings and the potential for vulnerability when walking alone.

It’s an all-too familiar reminder for UBC students. Three years ago, the campus was on high alert after a string of six sexual assaults over several months. In all cases, the suspect attacked women walking alone from behind, leading RCMP to believe the same man was responsible for all attacks.

That suspect, who was described as a thin, 5-foot-8 to 6-foot-2 Caucasian man with darker skin in his late 20s, was never arrested.

Anyone with information about the latest incidents is asked to contact University RCMP at 604-224-1322 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.