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By Bonny Burrows

A 49-year-old Pakenham woman was allegedly raped after accepting a lift from a stranger, in what police are describing as an “horrific” incident.
Police are ramping up their search to find the man responsible for the sexual assault which has left the woman too “traumatised” to speak out.
The 49-year-old woman was hitchhiking along the Princes Highway in Beaconsfield in the vicinity of Whiteside Road about midnight on Sunday 30 July, following a disagreement with a friend.
According to Detective Senior Constable Steve Phillips from Victoria Police’s Sexual Crimes Squad, the woman was picked up by a man driving a vehicle similar to a 2001 white Toyota Hilux flat tray ute.
He is described as being about 50 years old, with sandy coloured hair which is short on the sides and curly on top.
DSC Phillips said the woman and the man had a friendly conversation, after which the woman agreed to go with the man to talk further.
“He said he’d take her somewhere to have a chat. She felt quite happy at the time,” DSC Phillips said.
She was driven to Starling Road in Officer, a short distance from the Princes Highway, in the vicinity of the football oval and Glenvale School, where according to police, the man raped her.
“He jumped on top of her … his weight was on top of her,” DSC Phillips said.
The woman was not restrained in any way, nor were the car’s doors locked.
However, Sen Const Phillips said with the area poorly lit and with no cars or houses in sight, the woman was afraid of what would happen if she tried to escape or fight back.
Following the assault, the man’s demeanour changed, DSC Phillips said, and he drove the woman in the vicinity of her home where she was left.
“He was quite derogatory in relation to her being frigid,” he said.
“He pretty much dumped her out of the car. He was not nice to her after this occurred.”
The man was last seen travelling in the vehicle along the Princes Highway towards Warragul.
Police held a media conference on Tuesday 19 September in the hope of identifying the man responsible.
The victim was scheduled to attend the conference, but the incident had left the woman, who is married with older children, too traumatised to speak out.
“It’s horrific. It’s affected her emotionally … she’s too traumatised to speak today. She’s 49 years old and she’s suffering as a result of it,“ DSC Phillips said.
She has provided police with a “very good image” of the man’s description and DSC Phillips said it was established through conversation between the victim and the man that he was from Warragul.
“We strongly believe someone out there knows who he is,” DSC said.
Police are appealing for anyone who may recognise the man or the vehicle to come forward.
Despite being unable to identify the man, police are not issuing a general warning to the public.
“It’s unknown but at this stage it appears an isolated incident,” DSC said.
Anyone with information regarding the incident, man or vehicle is urged to phone Crime Stoppers on 1800 300 000.

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