Police are treating the vicious attack of an elderly woman in her Morningside home as attempted murder.
Officers say they are not ruling out the possibility that the 85-year-old was raped in her Morningside Grove home.
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, remains unconscious in a critical but stable condition in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
She was stabbed several times to the body, suffered blunt force trauma to her chest and face and a cut to her neck, while police say some of her injuries suggest she was sexually assaulted.
Detective Chief Inspector Keith Hardie, who is leading the investigation, said officers were keen to find a man aged between 18 and 30 who was seen by a neighbour in the doorway of the woman’s home at around 3.30pm.
DCI Hardie said it was still unclear whether the incident was random or if the woman knew the attacker.
She was alone in her home between 3pm and 4.30pm while her husband went out to the local shops, and officers are still working to pinpoint a time when the assault took place.
DCI Hardie said: “On his return he found her collapsed in the living room, and initially suspected she had fallen, but inquires found she had been the victim of a very very serious and life-threatening attack.”
He said time of the reported sighting of the man in the doorway - 3.30pm - was a “crucial time” for officers. It is believed the attacker left via the back door of the property.
“He was 18 to 30 years old, of average build with short dark hair. It was more of a glance what the witness got of him, because he wasn’t doing anything particularly suspicious,” said DCI Hardie.
“We are not ruling out whether it was random or targeted. I would certainly not discount the fact that the attacker has seen the husband leave the house and thought he was leaving an empty house, but at this stage in the inquiry it’s crucial to keep an open mind.”
Officers remain certain that there was only one person responsible for the attack.
DCI Hardie said: “I would find it almost unfeasible for two people to be of a like mind to be prepared to do that to an elderly individual.”
Cabinets in the living room, which was at the rear of the house, were open, but it is not yet known whether anything was stolen as the property is still being examined for forensic evidence.
DCI Hardie added: “In my experience within the service I have never really heard of anything to this extent or its nature, a vicious attack and an attempt to take her life.
“We are dealing with undoubtedly an attempted murder, there’s a potential sexual element to it and we can’t rule out a theft. Perhaps the lady has disturbed somebody carrying out a theft. At this stage we can’t rule anything out by way of a motive.”
He urged anyone with information to come forward.
Chief Inspector Richard Horan, area commander for Edinburgh South, said he wanted to reassure Morningside residents after the incident, which came just a day after two people were stabbed at nearby Royal Edinburgh Hospital.
He said: “There’s nothing at all that’s suggesting that this incident in Morningside Grove is linked to the Royal Edinburgh hospital. We do have extra police officers out on the street. We’re able to attend and respond to any concerns you may have. We will continue that for as long as it takes as we progress the investigation.
“The response has been excellent, we really value the feedback we’ve had.”
CI Horan added: “People are obviously concerned for the victim, but crimes like this are incredibly rare. We will continue to try and reassure the community using every possible avenue.”