POLICE believe stabbing suspect Arron Marshall is still in the Bridport area.

They are hunting him in connection with an assault when a 36-year-old man was repeatedly attacked with a knife near the Londis store in Alexandra Road, Skilling, on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve.

Bridport Inspector Mike Darby, pictured right, said: “It is only a matter of time before we catch him.”

The officer leading the investigation, Insp Stewart Dipple of Weymouth CID, added: “We think he is still in the Bridport area. There is nothing to suggest otherwise.”

He said officers were actively looking for the 22-year-old Bridport man and were appealing for anyone sheltering him to give him up. While the manhunt continues efforts are being made to reassure the public.

Insp Darby added: “Clearly he knows it is serious. People are contacting us and we are following up their information.

“We urge him to hand himself in or if anyone knows his location, contact us.”

Although police are anxious for the public’s help they warn people not to approach Marshall but to contact police immediately.

Insp Darby said: “This is a one-off incident concerning him. The risk to the public is low and obviously we are canvassing in Skilling speaking to the community and reassuring them that the police are actively investigating and trying to locate the man.”

Police say the victim is recovering. He was taken by air ambulance to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital with potentially life-threatening multiple stab wounds to his torso, face and hands.

The police have as yet no clue as to the motive for the attack but at this stage they do not believe it to have been a pre-meditated incident.

Insp Darby added: “I don’t think anybody is going to really know the reason until he tells us.”

Friends and family have urged Marshall to give himself up, pledging their support Two of the men who witnessed the attack have been seeking comfort from Bridport Rector, the Rev Andrew Evans of St Mary’s Church.

He said both men, so-called ‘sofa surfers’ with no fixed address, were regular doorstep callers at the vicarageand shocked by the attack.

The Rev Evans said: “People read about this sort of thing in the newspapers but they are alarmed and shocked when it actually happens on their doorsteps.

“It does bring concern into the community but it is rare.

“I have chatted to a couple of the lads who witnessed the event. From their point of view it was unprovoked.

“Even being on the edge of something like that which was obviously, very violent has left them deeply shocked.

“It does disturb because folk think ‘gosh I thought Bridport was a quiet safe town’.

“Although if we actually dismissed it as commonplace it would be more worrying in fact because we would then have come to a point of accepting it as normal and it is not, thank God.”

The Rev Andrews said he saw the victim an hour before the attack on New Year’s Eve.