POLICE investigating a degrading gang sex attack last night issued descriptions of people who may hold vital information.

The 17-year-old victim was set on by three men, in their late teens or early 20s, who first knocked her unconscious with a stick.

The incident took place at 11.25pm on Thursday as the college student was walking home along New Elvet.

Detectives are urging people who were near Durham University's student union building, Dunelm House, at the time to come forward.

Detective Chief Inspector Jeff Watson said the victim was seen on security camera as she walked past the city's police station further down New Elvet.

He said: "Five or ten minutes behind her were a couple walking in the same direction, about 100 yards from the point where the initial contact was made with the men outside Peters Bakery.

"The man was in his mid to late 20s with a bald or shaven head and was wearing a jumper and jeans.

"His partner had dark shoulder-length hair and was wearing a Parka coat and jeans. They could well have seen something of importance."

Police also want to speak to two men and a woman, thought to be students, who were walking down New Elvet in the opposite direction.

Police believe they saw the victim and could have walked past her attackers.

A couple who called at the police station shortly before midnight on another matter could also hold vital information.

The man was in his mid to late-30s, had short, dark hair and wore a T-shirt with Kawasaki written on the back.

The woman was in her early 30s, had glasses and shoulder-length dark hair.

Police say the slightly built victim, who wore a white T-shirt, blue jeans and white court shoes, was taunted by her attackers as she approached the bakery opposite Dunelm House. The youths were carrying sticks and appeared to be having a mock sword fight.

She was knocked unconscious with a blow to the side of her head, and when she came round, she was lying in a secluded grassed area where she was pinned down and was struck again.

Police said she was dragged or carried to where the sex attack took place, but said passers-by may have mistaken it for high-jinks.

Anyone with information is asked to call police on 0191-386 4222. Alternatively, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.