A WOMAN raped in Bournemouth’s Lower Gardens was discovered within minutes of the attack by a member of the public who called emergency services, police say.

Officers investigating the “horrific” incident, which happened early on Wednesday morning, have urged anyone who thinks they may know anything at all about the rape at all to get in touch.

As yet, no arrests have been made, although officers are following a number of leads. The crime is being treated so seriously that it is being handled by Dorset Police's specialist Major Crime Investigation Team.

Yesterday, Chief Inspector Pete Browning, who has responsibility for neighbourhood policing across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, urged residents to stay vigilant.

“The victim of this incident is being supported by specially-trained officers,” he said.

“This is a very unusual incident for Dorset, both by the nature of the seriousness of the assault, and the timing and location."

A report was made to police just after 6.10am. The attack itself happened sometime earlier at around 5.40am.

Chief Inspector Browning said the victim was quickly found by a member of the public, adding: "She was passing through.

"She went into the Lower Gardens and then this incident took place."

The victim, a woman in her 40s, told police from her hospital bed that she had been walking through the gardens when she was approached from behind by a man who assaulted and raped her.

Police are hunting for a man in his 30s with dark hair and facial hair. Yesterday, a cordon remained in the gardens while investigations continue.

Chief Inspector Browning said while police have no intention of causing “undue alarm”, residents are advised to stay cautious, especially when walking alone in the dark.

“There are some basics steps everyone can take to look after their safety,” he said. “For example, we’d want anyone walking to work by themselves to stay vigilant and especially wary. This happened in a relatively isolated area, especially at that particular time of day, when we know there is likely to have been very little footfall.

“We’d urge people to be conscious of their surroundings, and perhaps take alternate routes.”

Police have called for anyone who saw something “even remotely suspicious” to get in touch.

“A number of people have already contacted us and provided statements. However unconnected you think something is, we want to know about it,” he said.

Anyone with information should contact police via dorset.police.uk or by calling 101, quoting 55190178951.