Posted on July 19, 2007

Sex Case Appeal Axed In Race Fear

BBC News, July 18, 2007

Concerns about possible racist attacks led to police pulling out of a TV appeal in their search for a sex attack suspect, it has emerged.

Officers want to trace former Exeter taxi driver Noorullah Seddiqi, 34, originally from Afghanistan.

Police were planning to put a reconstruction on ITV’s Manhunt crime show, but a spokesman said “community concerns” led to a rethink.

Mr Seddiqi is wanted for questioning after failing to answer bail.

He was arrested in November last year in connection with an investigation into a rape and a series of sexual assaults on women.

Police launched a hunt for him after he failed to answer bail on 9 January.

Devon Racial Equality Council confirmed it had asked the force to withdraw from Manhunt after previous public appeals for information on the case had led to ethnic minorities in Exeter being subjected to verbal and physical abuse.

It said in a statement that 20 or so assaults and attacks had occurred directly relating to previous reports of the case.

A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police said: “The investigating officers did consider using Manhunt as part of the operation to trace the suspect.

“There were community concerns regarding the use of a reconstruction and, as a result, that part of the operation was reviewed.

“Following this review, it was decided that an appeal via Manhunt would provide no further information than that which was already held.

“Therefore it was not taken forward.”

He added: “This was one aspect of the enquiry and officers continue to use other methods in an attempt to trace him.”

Yvonne Traynor, chief executive of the Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre, said race should not be an issue when hunting a suspect.

She said: “The whole thing is a nonsense.

“The issue here is not race at all but serious sexual violence. It is as if the victims are being forgotten in this case.”

Police have been criticised for putting out a public appeal for Mr Seddiqi in April, three months after he broke bail.

The force responded that there was a strong possibility that he had left the area, or the country, so other avenues were investigated before publicising his disappearance.