A MAJOR police rape investigation has been launched following a vicious daylight attack on a young mother in a lay-by.
She was raped by a stranger when she stopped her car at the concealed, tree-lined spot on the outskirts of Paignton.
Police say the man they are hunting after the attack on the woman, who is in her mid-30s, is white, 6ft tall and has a stocky build.
Now police are warning all women in South Devon not to stop their cars in remote spots following the rape at around 3pm on Friday, October 21.
The victim pulled into the crescent-shaped, wooded lay-by on Blagdon Road, a country lane which runs between Berry Pomeroy and Collaton St Mary.
The lay-by is at the end of a farm track known as Glazegate Lane, near Barton Pines, on the country road from Berry Pomeroy which eventually leads down to the Ocean BMW garage and Collaton St Mary primary school.
A team of 25 officers from the major crime investigation team is now working on the case, led by Det Sgt Martin Sutcliffe.
Police closed roads and cordoned off the scene within an hour. Now they have erected signs appealing for everybody — whether they were driving, cycling or on foot — who was in the vicinity last Friday to contact them urgently.
Police have also issued a photograph of the woman's silver grey Peugeot 406 with a large top box.
"We are particularly interested in anyone who saw her car," Det Sgt Sutcliffe said. "It is a very common car but it was distinctive because the top box gave it a larger outline.
"The woman, with the support of her partner, has agreed that we should issue the picture of the car to try to trigger key witnesses to come forward.
"It's obviously a fairly concealed area, but it is at a time of day when a lot of people would have been travelling along that road."
Since the attack, women throughout South Devon have been using social networks including Facebook, texts and emails to warn each other.
Facebook posts include claims that the rapist wore a balaclava and used a knife in the attack.
But police issued a statement regarding the information being spread on Facebook.
A spokesman said: "Police are aware of a number of rumours and speculation circulating on social media sites at the moment regarding the alleged rape which are inaccurate and can distort the truth.
"Police advise that this can be unhelpful to the investigation.
"Police would like to reiterate that the investigation team are treating this allegation seriously and have substantial resources allocated to it.
"Stranger rape is a rare occurrence and every effort is being made to bring the investigation to a satisfactory conclusion."
Det Sgt Sutcliffe also denied Facebook claims that the woman had stopped to exchange insurance details and had been lured into a trap.
He issued a warning to all women in South Devon to take extra care. He said: "It is a common-sense approach. Women should not stop their cars if they are in a remote spot such as this one unless it is a real emergency.
"A rape incident has taken place in a lay-by in a remote area by someone unknown to the victim. As a general warning, women should be aware of that and take extra care.
"This type of attack in daylight is very, very rare.
"I cannot give out more specific details at this time in view of the fact that this is still in the early stages of our investigation.
"We are still appealing for witnesses and we do not want to contaminate evidence."
A farmer who has land nearby said: "We have young girls coming in and out with their horses and it feels very uncomfortable indeed because it happened almost next door, as the crow flies.
"I came down that lane about 10 minutes before the police closed the road, at about 4pm."
Police are appealing for all those who travelled that route between 3pm and 3.30pm on the day of the rape to call 101 quoting log 814 of Friday, October 21.
"We would also appreciate those people who contact us if they could specify the make and registration number of the vehicle they were travelling in, or any other mode of transport such as walking or cycling," said Detective Inspector Mark Norman.