The 90-year-old victim of a "violent rape" in Rochdale early yesterday morning was making her usual trip to the local butcher's shop, carrying "a pound in one hand and a walking stick in the other" before she was attacked, Superintendent Alistair Mallen said.
Simon Danczuk, Labour MP for Rochdale, said there was "a real sense of shock and horror" in the community over the rape of a 90-year-old in the town yesterday morning.
He said: "Local people are struggling to comprehend how anyone could do this. Our heart goes out to this poor woman. She must have gone through hell.
"There is a real sense of shock and horror in the community and the police need to do everything possible to catch this sick individual. But they need the help of the community and people must stand up and be counted.
"Someone somewhere will know something that can help the police and I would urge them to search their conscience and come forward to pass that information on."
Superintendent Alistair Mallen from Greater Manchester Police said:
I am sure the entire community will share our revulsion at this. The victim has been through an horrific ordeal and we are all hoping she can make a full recovery.
I now want people, including the criminal fraternity, to imagine if that had been your mum or grandma. I want to harness these feelings and use them to help the police do their job - catch this man and put him before the courts.
So, this happened in a busy part of town at the start of a normal working day. Did you see the lady walking down Spotland Road before 7am yesterday and, if so, did you see anyone else nearby.
It may not have struck you as significant at the time, but please, if you saw anything or anyone that you think could be relevant then please call the police.
In a statement, officers said the victim was walking along Spotland Road when she was attacked from behind, and dragged backwards. She then lost consciousness and woke up on the floor, before managing to walk to the butchers and call the police.
Greater Manchester police want to hear from anyone who may have seen the victim or the attacker. She was wearing a white summer dress with a floral print and a cardigan. The only description of the offender is that he was white.