POLICE are searching for a potentially crucial witness several months after an alleged sexual assault on a teenage girl in the city.
Detectives believe a dog walker may have witnessed the daytime incident involving a 17-year-old girl near a bridge at the bottom of Salmonpool Lane, close to Isca College.
And they have urged dog owners to cast their minds back to the start of August when the alleged assault took place.
The potential witness is described as an older man who walked past the victim with a small dog.
Police believe he could provide vital assistance to officers investigating the alleged offence.
Investigating officer Det Con Claire Westcott, describing the alleged victim's account, said: "The attack happened on a really rainy, thundery day. The victim was walking to meet her friend when she was grabbed by the suspect who told her to give him her umbrella so he could stay dry.
"He started kissing her and the victim tried to push him away. The assault then went further and the victim was left pretty distraught by it."
The victim managed to get away from her attacker and ran away before going to a friend's house where she rang police. Det Con Westcott said: "We are keen to speak to this potential witness and believe he could be someone who lives locally and this may be a regular walk with his dog.
"He may recall seeing the two on or near the bridge.
"The thing that may trigger the dog walker's memory is that the suspect also had a dog with him – a Rottweiler or similar breed."
The suspect is described as white, aged about 18, with mousey-blonde short hair and of skinny build. He was wearing a grey jogging suit and white trainers.
The teenage girl is about 5ft 3in tall, with shortish bobbed blonde hair.
She was wearing an orange hoody, a brown vest top underneath, blue jeans and plimsolls and was carrying an umbrella.
The alleged attack happened at about 1pm on Sunday, August 5. It is understood to have been raining heavily on the day of the attack.
Det Con Westcott said she believed the alleged assault was an "isolated incident".
Anyone who thinks they may have witnessed the incident or who believes they were in the area at the time is asked to contact police on 101 quoting crime reference DE/12/7689.
An 18-year-old man from Exeter is expected to be summoned to court in connection with the incident in the next few weeks.