A SOUTHEND park was sealed off and a popular museum shut for the weekend as police investigated a late-night sex attack.

The victim, a 23-year-old Southend woman, was attacked in Southchurch Hall Park, Southchurch. Her mobile phone was taken by the attacker.

The park was sealed off all day Friday, while Southchurch Hall museum was closed all weekend by police.

Full details of the attack, on Thursday, at 11.15pm, have yet to be released, but police confirmed the victim had been interviewed by specialist sex crime officers.

Neighbours spoke of their shock after hearing about the incident, though many claim antisocial behaviour in the park has long been a problem.

Jay Newstead, 44, of Eastern Esplanade, saw the police in the park while walking his dog. He said: “I saw police cars covering all the entrances and more police inside, carrying out inquiries.

“They wouldn’t tell me what was going on, but this is the kind of thing I’ve been worried about.

“It’s frightening. My wife walks that way to the station every day for work. I’ll be walking with her now, as you don’t know if this man is still out there.

“It’s awful to think women can’t walk home at night and feel safe. It’s not right.

“I can walk through the park at night and know no one will argue with me, but my partner, as a woman, is vulnerable.

“It’s frustrating to know that people are at risk. You can’t trust anyone these days.”

The investigation forced Southend Museums Service to cancel the final day of a Tudor Crafts event at Southchurch Hall.

Kursaal Ward Labour borough councillor Judith McMahon said: “I think people will be extremely upset.

“There are long-standing residents there. They will be very concerned for a member of the community who has suffered like that.

“The last time there was a sexual assault there, people were very frightened. There was a lot of concern because lots of mums and children use the park.”

A police spokesman said: “We are investigating a reported robbery and sexual assault on a woman in Southchurch Hall Park, Southend.

“Officers were contacted shortly after 11.15pm on Thursday. An area of the park has been cordoned off while police carry out an examination of the scene.

“Anyone with information is asked to contact the sexual offences investigation team, by calling 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously, on 0800 555111.”