A GROUP of up to six men were involved in a late-night brawl in a park moments before a woman was subjected to a horrific rape.

Detectives investigating the rape of the 21-year-old woman, in Blackhill Park, at Consett, County Durham, say that the men were involved in a fight yards from the scene of the attack and may have information that could help catch the rapist.

Detective Inspector Mick Nail, who is leading the investigation, said: "We know there were people in the area and, so far, half a dozen have responded to our appeals, but only one of these was in the park at the time and others have yet to come forward and we would urge them to do that.

"We have now established that a group of five or six men were involved in a fight in the park shortly before the rape.

"Although that incident was about 200 yards away, those men may have seen something important."

The woman, wearing a black vest top and mini skirt, was attacked and left unconscious as she made her way home from The Trades nightclub, in Consett, shortly after 2am on Sunday.

Police also want to speak to a young man, thought to be in his teens, who befriended the victim and chatted to her shortly before the attack.

The pair went into the park and sat on a bench chatting for up to 15 minutes.

After the man left, the woman was confronted by a stranger, thought to be in his 20s, wearing dark clothing.

She was overpowered and thrown to the ground and subjected to a prolonged sexual assault, during which she lost consciousness.

Anyone with information is asked to call police on 0845 6060365.