New York (CNN) -- A 73-year-old woman was sexually assaulted Wednesday in New York's Central Park in the middle of the day, police said.
The victim was bird watching in the vicinity of 74th Street and Central Park West, also known as Strawberry Fields, just before noon when her alleged attacker approached her. The woman told police they exchanged words and he sexually assaulted her.
He also stole some items, authorities said. The woman was taken to an area hospital after passerby Eric Ozawa found her lying in the bushes.
"I saw her face was badly beaten," Ozawa told CNN affiliate WABC. "She was swollen, her right eye was black, her forehead was swollen ... She told me that she had been raped."
One theory, according to the police, is the assailant targeted the woman because she had taken a picture of him masturbating in the woods in early September and had refused his demand to delete the photo.
The woman described her attacker as being white, and clean shaven with a European accent, police said.
This is the first reported sexual assault in Central Park this year, according to police records. In 2011, two such attacks occurred.
"She was a victim of a terrible attack," Assistant Commissioner Paul Browne told WABC.
The section of Central Park where the attack took place is named after one of the Beatles' best-known songs, "Strawberry Fields Forever," and is a memorial to singer John Lennon. It draws visitors from all over the world.