DETECTIVES say a random and serious sex attack on a 52-year-old grandmother was "very, very rare", as they moved to reassure the public.

Cleveland Police also released a CCTV image of a key person they want to speak to who they believe can assist with inquiries into the brutal incident on Borough Road on the North Ormesby fly-over, above Lytton Street in Middlesbrough.

The victim was walking to work at 6am last Saturday, June 7, when she was pushed to the ground, punched and subjected to a sexual assault which only stopped when a passing male "Good Samaritan" came to her aid, chasing the suspect who ran off towards North Ormesby.

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A week later the victim is still in hospital, in a stable condition, with a fractured shoulder, broken arm, broken nose, and in a "traumatised" state, police said.

Speaking at the scene on Saturday, DS Jonathan Hagen, of Cleveland Police, said: "This CCTV image is of a man who had been in Middlesbrough town centre. Our appeal has now been widened from people who may have been near the scene of the attack to people who were in the town centre, who may have been leaving licensed premises in the early hours of the morning and saw someone matching this person's description who may have been acting a little bit strangely."

He said he wanted to calm any public fear, and said: "We want to reassure the public that this is a one-off, it was a lady walking to work at 6 in the morning and was violently sexually attacked by a complete stranger. There was no evidence that he had been stalking her or that it was pre-meditated.

"That kind of attack is very, very rare - it just doesn't happen.

"We can't link anything that has happened recently or historically to the attack."

DS Matt Hollingsworth added: "Some people on Facebook have comparing it with other attacks in the area, but we have looked into these and there is nothing to link anything with anything."

A dedicated inquiry unit has been set up by police to go through CCTV and forensic evidence.

Contact Cleveland Police on 101 or the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800-555-111.