The victim of a violent sexual assault is speaking out in an attempt to track down the man responsible.
Stephanie Hewson, from North Tyneside, received horrific injuries during the attack in Whitley Bay in 2009. She has chosen to come forward and speak about her ordeal in an effort to help police catch the offender.
The assault happened at 2:33am on Sunday, August 2nd 2009, when police received a report expressing concern for a woman in a back alley in Beach Avenue. Officers found Stephanie, who was 23 at the time, lying in the alley after suffering a sexual assault.
She was in a distressed state with serious facial injuries.
Before the attack she had been out in Newcastle and travelled by taxi to Whitley Bay, planning to meet up with other friends.
She was seen talking to friends outside Envy on South Parade in Whitley Bay around 1.45am before walking with a friend to the top of South Parade.
This friend left her at 2am. She then walked towards Park Avenue when she was approached by a man who dragged her into the rear lane of Beach Avenue and sexually assaulted her.
Since the attack officers have spoken to many nearby residents. CCTV from the scene and surrounding areas was seized and studied by police and a number of potential witnesses were identified and spoken to.
Police appealed to the public for information and released CCTV stills of a man they wanted to speak to in connection with the attack.
The CCTV images are of a white man aged mid to late 20s, with short hair, receding at the temples, wearing a mid blue short sleeved T-shirt with the word Mackenzie in yellow, dark jeans and white trainers.
– Stephanie Hewson
Speaking out about the attack she said: "It was horrible and It's a miracle I'm still here.
"I had gashes all over my back , the tops of my shoulders and my head, face and jaw were swollen. I had black eyes and scrapes all over my body and I had damage to the backs of both of my eyes from being kicked so many times. My nose was broken and my mouth ripped apart from inside to out.
"Since the attack my life has completely changed. I don’t go out on nights out anymore and very rarely go out at all, only to restaurants if at all. I’m scared to get out of my car to go into work and I don’t go out at all if its dark – not even to the supermarket if it’s dark outside.
"I think back to when I was 18 and me and my friends used to walk home late at night and when this happened I only walked four car lengths and this happened to me – it’s not worth it.
"Everyone needs to be on guard especially when they've had a drink, I'd urge young women to make sure you are with people and get a taxi and have plans to get home safely. Everyone needs to make sure they are safe."
– Detective Inspector Paul Race from Northumbria Police Rape Investigation Team
"This was a particularly nasty assault on a young woman that left her with a number of serious physical injuries and emotionally distressed.
"We carried out extensive enquiries at the time and but unfortunately were unable to charge anyone with the assault.
"This crime has never been closed and we regularly carry out reviews of unsolved crimes to see whether any further progress can be made. If we receive new information we will investigate it and act on it.
"I have to praise Stephanie and her family for their courage shown since the incident happened and their support and help to officers investigating the attack.
"I want to appeal to anyone who recognises the man in the images or thinks they know who it could be to contact us with any information that they might have.
"I also need to reassure the residents of Whitley Bay - and the wider public - that incidents of this nature are thankfully very unusual."
Anyone with any information into the incident is asked to contact the Northumbria Police rape team on 101 ext 69191 or by ringing the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously on 0800 555 111.