A naked runner who targeted dozens of young women has been caught after determined beat officers used a discarded shopping receipt to track him down.
Over the last few weeks, the serial flasher has been targeting women on the riverbanks in Durham City, but it was detective work by local officers and the culprit’s taste for sweets which proved to be his downfall.
A discarded till receipt for a packet of Haribo which was dropped at the scene eventually helped officers trace an 18-year-old suspect, who was arrested and has now admitted his guilt.
Since April, around a dozen women reported that a man, naked except for his running shoes, had been seen on the riverside footpaths between Durham Rowing Club and the Maiden Castle sports complex.
Police believed that he was waiting for lone women, many of them joggers using the popular riverside routes, before emerging from his hidden vantage point and indecently exposing himself.
Although a dozen women, aged from their late teens to their 40s, reported the flasher, police believe there may have been many more incidents which went unreported.
Durham City Police carried out a series of operations, including plain clothes patrols in which female officers posed as joggers to lure the suspect out.
But the breakthrough came when one of the tenacious officers found the spot on the parapet of a disused railway bridge which the culprit used to spot his victims coming.
An empty sweet packet and shop receipt found nearby allowed officers to scour CCTV footage from the store and pinpoint the moment that the sweets were bought, giving them an image of a suspect which matched the description given by the victims.
Officers were then able to trace the suspect to a city centre address, where he was arrested and admitted all the offences.
The man has since been admitted to Checkpoint, a four-month intervention programme to deal with his behaviour.
Sergeant Kay Howarth, of Durham City Police, said: “This was quite an unusual case because the riverside in Durham is usually such a safe place and is visited by families all the time, which made us all the more determined to catch him.
“It must have been very alarming for these women to have a stranger jump out at them while they were simply out enjoying a run.
“We would like to thank all those who rang in to report this man and for all those local runners who helped with our investigation.
“Our officers were determined to find this man and we will continue to work to make sure Durham is a safe place for everyone”.