KNIFEPOINT robberies soared by 60 per cent last year, Home Office figures show.

County-wide there were 92 knifepoint robberies in the 12-months to June 2019 compared to 57 the previous year.

The new figures were published by the government as Swindon detectives continued to hunt for up to five young men suspected of stabbing a man in the buttocks and back after chasing him from a notorious underpass near the Oasis. The subway is better known as “mugger’s alley”.

In total, Wiltshire Police recorded 291 serious or violent offences involving a knife last year, the Home Office said. They included one murder – the killing of 17-year-old Calne schoolgirl Ellie Gould – three attempted murders and 175 serious assaults. Knifepoint sexual assaults fell from four in 2017/18 to none last year.

Generally, drug possession offences were up by 21 per cent and possession of weapons reports increased by almost a third.

Police and crime commissioner Angus Macpherson said: “The increase in drug offences and offensive weapon possession is unsurprising, often these types of offences can be linked to county lines which continues to be a force priority.

“This increase in the offences recorded is testament the ongoing proactive work to tackle the blight of these gangs who bring drugs into our county and target those most vulnerable.

“In fact, just last week I joined officers in Swindon on county line operations that resulted in 62 people being arrested. I will continue to work with the force to ensure that this momentum is not lost.”

Overall, the latest figures show a slight increase in crimes recorded by Wiltshire Police – up three per cent to 43,646.

Robberies were up 12 per cent, shoplifting up 11 per cent, bicycle theft up seven per cent and violence without injury up six per cent.

There were some notable improvements. The force saw a 14 per cent fall in drug offences and an eight per cent drop in burglaries.

Supt Sarah Robbins put the burglary fall down to a new burglary squad – called the community tasking team – in 2016. She said: “Burglary is a horrendous crime which can be emotionally and financially damaging. It is the actions of a small number of individuals, which can have a huge impact on a town or area. We have identified the most prolific offenders across Wiltshire and Swindon with many of these now removed from our streets."

While burglary reports have fallen overall there has been a four per cent increase in theft offences recorded by Wiltshire Police.

And almost 70 per cent of theft investigations by the force this summer were closed with no suspect having been identified.

Home Office figures show that of 3,765 theft cases investigated by the force, 2,596 of these saw the investigation completed and no suspects found. In only seven per cent of the cases, which include burglary, robbery and shoplifting, was a suspect charged or summonsed to court.

Overall, 7.3 per cent of Wiltshire Police’s cases made it to court. 37 per cent saw investigations closed with no suspect identified.

That put the Wiltshire force above the national average, with figures of 5.8 per cent and 42.7 per cent respectively.