Hunt for man after ‘abhorrent’ sex assaults
Police are hunting for a man accused of sexually assaulting multiple women travelling on packed trams throughout Melbourne.
The man allegedly committed the sexual assaults, which involved him rubbing his erect penis on his victims, on three separate occasions throughout the year.
The first incident occurred just after 7pm on February 28 while the victim Sophie*, 46, was travelling on the route 19A tram in Parkville.
"I was just on the tram and this guy got on and from the minute he got on he just clocked me," Sophie said.
She said her initial thought was he was just "another sleazy guy" but looking back she realised he knew exactly what he was doing.
"He just moved in [behind me] and I felt this weird tapping and it was just like, that's actually not happening," she said.
The Brunswick woman said she initially went into flight mode and pushed her way to the other end of the tram.
"Then I kind of went into a fight mode and thought this happens to women all the time who don't say anything," Sophie said.
"I pushed my way back up. I think I just stared at him with this angry face. In my mind I was thinking what am I going to say and he looked back at me quite cocky actually."
She said when other people started to notice that something was wrong, the man looked away "shamefully" before getting off at the next stop.
"As he was getting off the tram I took a photo then I thought he can't get away without me saying 'You're a piece of f**king shit'. So I yelled that at him," Sophie said.
"I just stood there completely shaking in shock. I felt quite shameful and vulnerable. I felt really angry and then the days following that I was a total mess."
The second incident occurred just after 3.30pm on June 6 as a 22-year-old woman was travelling on the number 96 tram on Bourke St towards Southern Cross Station.
The same thing happened with the man allegedly rubbing his gentians on the victim as they were standing in the packed tram.
The third incident occurred at about 5.30pm on August 18, when Mary*, 31, was travelling on the number 96 tram to meet up with her partner and children.
At one point Mary had to get off the tram to let people off and when she got back on that is when the assault allegedly occurred.
"I thought there was a bag being pressed up against my bottom. Then I felt it again and I turned and realised it wasn't a bag," she said.
"He kept repeating the motion against my bottom over and over.
"Once I realised what was happening I said quite loudly 'Can you stop f**king doing that f**king hell' and tried to make it obvious that there was an issue."
She said the tram was so packed that she couldn't even turn her body to look at his face.
When it came to the next stop she quickly pushed through everyone and told the driver what was happened, who then called the police.
While this was happening it is understood the man left the tram and walked away.
"I made a report straight away because I thought if he is going to do this on a packed tram what is he going to do if it's an old lady on her own one day," Mary said.
"My kids were asking why I was upset and I why I was with police. I shouldn't have to explain that stuff to kids."
Both women were deeply affected by the attacks and now struggle to catch public transport.
Mary said she had to take time off work after the incident.
Police have released images of the alleged offender and are urging anyone who recognises him to come forward.
The man, believed to be aged in his 40s, is perceived as being Southern European in appearance, medium build with receding dark hair.
Victoria Police Senior Constable, Hannah Smith, said it was important these kind of offenders were stopped.
"This kind of behaviour it's unacceptable, it's abhorrent and we are doing everything we can to stamp it out.
"It's very brazen to be continually committing offences, especially on what is quite packed trams at the time. It feels like he is quite arrogant about his offending."
Senior Constable Smith also said there may be other victims and urged anyone who has experienced something similar to come forward.
Anyone who recognises the man should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.