Recent Banff sexual assault could be linked to past unsolved cases

WATCH: RCMP are investigating a sexual assault in the tourist town of Banff and looking to see if it's connected to two similar unsolved cases. Jayme Doll reports.

RCMP in Banff are investigating whether a sexual assault that happened this week in the mountain town’s downtown core is connected to two previous unsolved sexual assaults.

According to RCMP, a woman was walking alone in the area of Otter Street, between Caribou and Wolf streets, on March 11 at about 1:15 a.m. when she was attacked from behind. The suspect reportedly knocked her to the ground and groped her.

Police said the woman fought the man off, who then fled. The woman didn’t get a good suspect description, but police said she described him as wearing a thick, black jacket, and smelling of cigarettes and liquor.

Similarities with 2 past assaults

According to Staff Sgt. Michael Buxton-Carr, investigators say this recently-reported assault bears a lot of similarities to two other cases spanning almost two years.

In October 2017, Buxton-Carr said officers responded to a sexual assault of a woman walking alone in early morning hours, just about a block away from Monday’s attack.

In that case, the suspect reportedly knocked the woman to the ground and groped her. That woman also fought the assailant off, Buxton-Carr said, and the suspect ran away. The woman did not get a suspect description.

In October 2018, a woman walking alone in a slightly different area of town was also attacked from behind and groped, with the man attempting to remove her clothing, Buxton-Carr said. The suspect also fled that scene after the woman fought back.

Buxton-Carr said there are no similarities between the victims, but the similarities in the circumstances have led investigators to explore them as possibly being connected.

Reopening files

He said officers will be re-examining all older sexual assault files in hopes of gleaning more information or identifying any other possible similarities.

Buxton-Carr said investigators will be looking at the timing, geography and circumstances of each, saying that the timing of the three assaults is quite spread out.

He added it’s uncommon for sexual assaults, especially ones that could be connected, to happen in Banff.

“It is an unusual occurrence,” Buxton-Carr said. “Each one is unusual. The fact that there are three with similarities is highly unique for Banff.”

He added that RCMP are encouraging anyone who was a witness to or victim of a crime who hasn’t reported it to police to come forward to the Banff RCMP detachment.

Buxton-Carr said there is no threat to public safety at this time, but people are encouraged to use the same precautions they would in any community or city, including walking in pairs or using transit if it’s available during late-night hours.

Anyone with information about this offence or previous assaults is asked to contact Banff RCMP at 403-431-6660, your local police department, or Crime Stoppers.

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