Detectives from Northumbria Police have launched an investigation called “Operation Sanctuary” following information about a series of sexual assaults involving a number of men from a range of communities and female victims.
A dedicated team of specialist officers has been set up and, as part of the investigation, searches are being carried out on properties, predominantly in Newcastle, but also in other locations across the force area.
Eleven properties were searched this morning and eight people arrested (seven men and one woman) for conspiracy to rape.
Northumbria Police has offered its condolences to relatives of a 43-year-old man who died in police custody today.
The man, who has not been named, was arrested on warrant on Thursday at his home in Houghton.
He was taken into custody after failing to appear at Gateshead Magistrates' Court on Tuesday for possessing an offensive weapon, and was seen by police doctors during his time in custody, the force said.
Chief Superintendent Kay Blyth said:
A probe has been launched after a 43-year-old man died in police custody today.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission confirmed it is investigating the death at Washington Police Station in Northumbria in the early hours of this morning.
The man, who has not been named, had been arrested on a warrant on Thursday for failing to appear at court and was being held in police cells pending a court appearance, the IPCC said.
An IPCC spokesman added:
Northumbria Police is urging people to take extreme care due to the severe weather conditions in the region.