THE search for the graffiti vandal behind hundreds of “Soak” tags is continuing after police picked up a man who claimed never to have used a spray-paint can.

Gardener David John, of Walton Street, Jericho, was arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage and put in a police van while on his way to the hairdressers.

Officers took the 37-year-old to Oxford's St Aldate’s police station for questioning on Thursday, August 5, but released him minutes later when they realised they had picked up the wrong man.

Last night police said they were waiting for forensic results from one crime scene and had their eye on another suspect they were hoping to arrest.

Police have been trying to catch the real graffiti tagger, responsible for scrawling the word “Soak” on Oxford Ice Rink, in Oxpens, as well as several doors, garages, shop fronts, trees and bus stops in the city centre, Cowley and Littlemore, for weeks.

The Oxford Mail has even spotted the tag on the Osney footbridge over the River Thames at Grandpont, which the vandal could have reached only by boat.

Last night Mr John said police should have done their homework before arresting him and insisted with better contacts in the community, they could easily trackdown the culprit.

Mr John said: “I was so angry about it. I like good graffiti, but I have never sprayed in my whole life. Someone has put my name forward for this.

“I had to go and explain to people who saw me in the police car and the people across the road.

“In the last couple of weeks I have been feeling really paranoid about things.

“Everyone is talking about it and it’s made me feel a bit funny.”

In a message to the culprit he said: “Stop doing it because it’s getting people into trouble – like me.”

Mr John said he had invited officers to search his home for spray paint to put an end to their suspicions.

Police spokesman Chris Kearney said: “Mr John’s arrest was based on information that we had at the time, which we felt was substantial enough to act upon.

“As soon as we had ascertained that Mr John had not been involved in this matter, he was promptly de-arrested and given a lift home by officers, who apologised to him at the time for any inconvenience caused.”

Mr Kearney reassured the public officers were doing everything they could, but said with little forensic evidence and few eye witnesses the investigation was taking longer than hoped.

He appealed to people to come forward with information, adding: “We are currently waiting on forensic results from one of the crime scenes, which may provide us with another line of investigation.

“There is a suspect we are investigating and officers are attempting to locate and arrest [him or her].”

Anyone with information about the graffiti should contact police on 08458 505505 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.