A wanted sex offender who may be as young as 12 needs to be caught before his assaults escalate, a police chief has said.
Greater Manchester Police believe the youngster, aged between 12 and 15, is responsible for three sex attacks in the last month surrounding the grounds of the University of Manchester.
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The first two assaults took place within 15 minutes of each other on Saturday September 21.
A 27-year-old woman was approached from behind and grabbed in Lloyd Street North at 6.15pm before she screamed and the offender ran off.
The next incident followed in Oxford Road when a 21-year-old woman was approached by a boy who made lewd comments as she left John Rylands library.
She carried on walking on Moss Lane East and was sexually assaulted by her assailant who was described as a young Asian boy aged 12 who wore green jeans and glasses.
The third attack took place at the Manchester Science Park in Lloyd Street South at about 2.15pm on Saturday October 5.
A 32-year-old woman was approached by two young boys and sexually assaulted by one of them described as being Asian, 12 to 13 years old, of slim build, with a small frame who wore baggy trousers and carried a rucksack on his back.
She pushed the boy away but he approached her again and sexually assaulted her for a second time before running off towards Pencroft Way in company with the second child, also described as a young Asian boy.
Today, Detective Chief Inspector Colin Larkin said: "While we cannot be precise about the offender's age, we believe from the descriptions given to us by the women he assaulted that he was between 12 and 15-years-old, and it is obviously very unusual and very worrying that someone someone so young is committing such appalling attacks on women.
"What we can be certain about is that the women are traumatised as a result of what happened and are being offered support by specially trained officers.
"Whatever the young boy's motivation, this is not a practical joke or a prank. His actions are disturbing and he has caused the three women he assaulted a lot of upset. That is why it is so important we find whomever is responsible.
"Given his young age, I would appeal to anyone who may know him - schoolteachers, community leaders or possibly even family members - to either alert the police or bring this young man to a police station as soon as possible. We cannot allow these sexual assaults to escalate and we need to find him."
Mr Larkin said he did not believe the boy who accompanied the offender in the last assault had also committed an offence and appealed to him to come forward and prevent his friend from assaulting other women.
"Undoubtedly people who work, live and study in this area will be concerned," the police chief continued.
"Incidents of this nature are thankfully extremely rare and this sort of offence involving such a young offender is even rarer, but it is right we should warn members of the public so they can be vigilant and take the right precautions such as sticking with friends and not walking alone where possible.
"Anyone who does have information about these appalling crimes or perhaps suspects who may be responsible should contact police immediately."
Anyone with information should phone police on 0161 856 4223 or the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.