POLICE have stepped up patrols and householders were warned to lock their doors following an attack on a pensioner at her Morningside home.
Detectives today said the culprit who beat, stabbed and who may have raped an 85-year-old woman remains at large, and they urged residents to take all precautions to secure their properties.
Alerts were also issued about how to identify – and deal with – bogus callers although police do not yet know how the suspect gained access to the house.
It is believed that the attacker left via the back door, which leads to a narrow lane.
One resident said police had scoured the lane for weapons, and a police spokesman confirmed they were looking for “anything of evidential value”.
The safety warnings come as investigators revealed they were treating the crime as attempted murder after the pensioner, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was found by her husband with life-threatening injuries at her house in Morningside Grove.
She remains in a critical but stable condition in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary after being stabbed several times on the body, bludgeoned in her chest and face and sustained a slash to her neck.
Detective Chief Inspector Keith Hardie, who is leading the inquiry, said it was unclear whether the attack was random or if she knew the culprit.
He said the victim had been attacked in the 90-minute window when her husband went to the shops.
“We are not ruling out whether it was random or targeted,” said DCI Hardie. “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.”
He added: “On his return, he found her collapsed in the living room, and initially suspected she had fallen, but inquiries found she had been the victim of a very serious and life-threatening attack.”
The house remains cordoned off and guarded by police officers, while detectives have been conducting door-to-door inquiries on the street and neighbouring Craighill Gardens, Craiglea Place and Craiglea Drive.
More details of a suspect, seen in the doorway of the property at 3.30pm, are “crucial” to the investigation, detectives say.
He has short, dark hair and is aged between 18 and 30.
Officers are trawling through reams of CCTV – such as footage from the Merchant’s of Edinburgh Golf Club and bus services – to find clues that could lead to an arrest.
But detectives believe no more than one man was responsible for the attack in which cabinet doors were left ajar but there were no apparent signs of robbery.
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.
“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.”
He urged anyone with information to step forward, and said that Police Scotland had received “numerous” calls about the incident.
Chief Inspector Richard Horan, area commander for Edinburgh South, moved to reassure Morningside residents in the wake of the attack which happened a day after two people were stabbed at nearby Royal Edinburgh Hospital.
Several outpatients from the psychiatric hospital are understood to be housed in neighbouring Craiglea Drive.
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 the public may have. We will continue that for as long as it takes as we progress the investigation.”
Ch Insp 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.”
A neighbour, who asked not to be named, said the couple – who are understood to have lived in the street for over 30 years – were both quite frail.
He said: “I don’t know them especially well, but I know she suffers from dementia. It’s not been easy for her husband as he is quite shaky too, but I always see him going for the bus. You never see his wife.”
The couple were expected to host a family reunion at the Merchants of Edinburgh Golf Club. A neighbour said that their son, believed to live in Canada, was due to fly home.