RAPE offences have hiked by more than 50 per cent in Reading over the last three years, and many remain unsolved.

TVP recorded a total of 169 rapes in the borough's policing area in 2016, but only 19 of them resulted in a criminal charge or a summons order being issued.

Official figures show 60 rape offences in Reading last year are unsolved after officers struggled to gather enough evidence. More than half the rapes were stranger-related.

A police spokesman said: "In 2016/17, there were 169 rapes recorded in Reading LPA, and in the same period 217 rape investigations were finalised. As rape cases are extensive and can take time to investigate, there is often an overlap between recorded offences and outcomes relating to an investigation from a previous time period. Consequently, there will be offences recorded in 2016/17 which are still under investigation.

"As with any statistics, it is important they are set in context. These outcome figures refer to when there has been a caution, charge, taken into consideration (TIC), community resolution, fixed penalty, cannabis/Khat warning or summons.

"Of some of the 217 cases that were finalised during 2016/17, 19 resulted in one or more persons being charged or summonsed, 94 investigations were finalised as the victim did not support further action, and in a further 60 cases, the investigation led to the identification of a suspect but evidential difficulties prevented a prosecution. 86 of the offences were domestic-related."

Rape crimes have soared in the town, with 108 recorded in 2014 and 145 in 2015, equalling a 56 per cent rise from 2014 to 2016/17.

Police chiefs insist the force is committed to preventing rapes and urged victims to come forward immediately.

The spokesman added: “We use a victim centred-approach to recording and if a report of rape is made, it will be recorded as such. If a victim no longer engages, the offence will still be recorded unless it is proved otherwise. We always focus on the best interests of the victim, which may not always be to proceed with a prosecution.

“We continue to encourage victims to come forward, where they will receive specialist support and will be treated with sensitivity and compassion. Any reported offence will be thoroughly investigated and we will always do everything possible to trace those responsible and take the most appropriate action against them.”