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British Transport Police (BTP) investigators have released CCTV images after a man spat at a train conductor at Littlehaven rail station.
Officers want to identify and speak to two men and a woman, pictured in the images, in connection with the incident, which took place around 3.45pm on Sunday, 10 July.
A Southern train conductor asked two men and a woman, who had boarded at Ifield, to leave the train at the next stop because they did not have tickets to travel.
The group verbally abused the conductor as they left the train at Littlehaven, before one of the men spat at him, with the spittle landing on his shirt.
The quick-thinking conductor was able to retain the spittle using a DNA kit, which train staff carry with them. The sample has been provided to BTP and will be sent for analysis.
PC Paul Gardner, the investigating officer, said: “We’re following a number of leads to try and get names for this group and want to hear from anyone who recognises them.
“Although the victim wasn’t physically injured, this degrading and unnecessary assault left him shaken and we are determined to catch the man responsible.
“Why he felt he had the right to spit at someone who was simply trying to do their job is inconceivable. Everyone has the right to go to work and carry out their duty without fear of this type of vile assault.
“If you recognise the men or woman pictured, or have any information that could assist my investigation, I’d like to hear from you.”
A spokesperson for Southern said: “This assault on our conductor is an abhorrent crime. He was just doing his job and was acting correctly and responsibly.
“No-one should have to go about their job fearing assaults such as this and we would urge anyone who recognises the people in the photographs to contact BTP.”
Anyone with information about the incident should contact British Transport Police on Freefone 0800 40 50 40 and quote reference B5/LSA of 10/08/11.
Alternatively, call the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.