SOME Tuen Mun women have taken to arming themselves with Mace while others have taken up self-defence courses in a bid to protect themselves from the serial rapist running loose in the new town. Fear races through their hearts as darkness descends on the community of 410,000. The women say they refuse to venture out at night unless accompanied by boyfriends or husbands. Women no longer walk casually through the housing estates on their way home - many run and eye strangers with more than a passing glance. Many have been forced to change their routines because each one fears they could be the next victim of the Tuen Mun serial rapist, the criminal police have linked to sexual attacks on five women and two murders over the past year. The area was deserted. Only occasional taxis sped by with their passengers. The only other noise was the rain and wind. The latest death of Tai Hing Estate resident Ms Mak Siu-han has sparked a series of protests and the women are threatening to fight back. The 23-year-old disc jockey was believed to have been killed at about 5 am last Wednesday. An eerie silence enveloped the stairwell where the victim's body was found. Police suspect she was attacked in the lift and dragged to the staircase. The assailant choked her with his bare hands. The nearest flat to the lift was 20 metres away. In the early hours of April 14 it is doubtful anyone witnessed her tragic death. Ms Wong Lai-wan, who was returning to her Tai Hing Estate home at about 3.30 am yesterday, told the South China Morning Post that she carried a canister of Mace in her purse. Ms Wong said she was frustrated and afraid because the rapist remained on the loose. The freedom of walking through her neighbourhood has gone since the attacker appeared. She said: ''I have a job to go to and a life to live and I do not like to live in fear. ''The death of Ms Mak scared me because the police have not caught this criminal. We all knew there have been rapes in this area, but now it has become murder.'' The Mace served as a tool to settle her mind, Ms Wong said, but she was uncertain whether she could reach it in time should she be attacked. Police have warned tear-gas sprays must be licensed. Said Ms Wong: ''I do not want to think about it right now, but I have to come home late at night because of my job. ''My boyfriend has tried to escort me home, but he cannot do it every night. He has his own job to go to in the morning.'' She said her family planned to move out of the estate and would forward an application to the Housing Department next week. In the lift lobbies of Tai Hing Estate buildings, the residents bound for home cast suspicious glances at any stranger, checking twice before entering the lift. For others, moving out of Tuen Mun is not an option. Ms Tsang Wai-lin, escorted by a male companion at 4 am, said her family had discussed finding a new home, but the application for another estate may take months or even years. ''We have to stay, but in the meantime, I will not go out alone,'' said the 22-year-old clerk. ''I used to come and go quite freely, but not any more. My boyfriend takes me everywhere and if I am going to be home really late, my father waits up for me. ''The murders have really driven fear into the women here. Crime was always bad here, but this is different.'' Ms Tsang added: ''A lot of women around here do not have the benefit of an escort. ''My next door neighbour is taking up martial arts to defend herself. My younger sister is thinking of doing the same thing.'' Despite a special team of investigators being assigned full-time to the case, the women say they live in constant fear. During the early hours, police vehicles could be seen parked nearby, but the women said they need more protection. Police will continue to patrol the area and have pledged maximum use of manpower. Officers will continue questioning residents during the early hours this week in a bid to come up with clues that may lead to a break in the case.