Caution urged after female jogger attacked at Rockwood Park

Saint John police say Rockwood Park is safe, but are urging runners to take precautions after a female jogger was allegedly attacked by a masked man with a knife on Wednesday night.

Man facing 3 assault-related charges

A Saint John man is facing three assault-related charges after a female jogger was allegedly attacked by a masked man armed with a knife at Rockwood Park Wednesday night.

Police say the area is safe, but are urging runners to take precautions while running after dark, such as not running alone and not wearing headphones.

A 26-year-old woman was jogging on one of the main trails that wrap around Lily Lake shortly after 7 p.m. when a man, who had a pair of nylon pantyhose over his head and was holding a knife, jumped out of the woods, said Sgt. Jay Henderson.

"The female pushed her aggressor back and screamed for help and got away from the male," he said.

She was not injured, he added.

Officers quickly set up a perimeter around the park and checked vehicles as they were leaving.

A 27-year-old suspect matching the victim's description was later arrested without incident at the Matthews Lane exit, attempting to leave the area in a vehicle, said Henderson.

The man is charged with assault, sexual assault with a knife and wearing a mask while committing an offence.

He did not enter any pleas in provincial court on Thursday and has been remanded in custody until Oct. 9 for a bail hearing.

"It doesn't shock me. I know myself, I personally would not come in Rockwood Park after dark," said Kelly Arsenault.

"I've lived in the city all my life. I kind of know the history of it and I wouldn't take the chance myself."

Caryl McLeod agrees. "I don't walk anywhere when it's dark, she said.

"I guess I'm a little bit chicken."

Take precautions

Police consider Rockwood Park, which is located in the centre of Saint John, to be a safe area of the city, said Henderson.

"It’s something that we don’t see — it’s not a frequent event at Rockwood Park."

The woman was wearing headphones at the time, he said.

The Running Room cautions runners against wearing headphones as part of a runner safety course it offers, said spokeswoman Lois Zaat.

"You really have to protect yourself out there, really be aware of your surroundings," she said.

"Running with a group or a pair, at least one other person, just cuts down on anything that may happen out there …especially if you're running in an area that is a trail or something that is not lit or a populated neighbourhood," said Zaat.

Even running with a dog can help, she said.

If someone is running alone, Zaat advises they tell somebody what route they will be taking or leave a note. They should carry a whistle and wear reflective clothing, she said.

The Saint John Police Force's major crime unit is continuing to investigate the incident. Anyone with information is asked to call 648-3333, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

Rockwood Park is one of the largest urban parks in North America, sprawling about 870 hectares.