WORRIED parents across Chorley are demanding to know if a child abductor is on the prowl in the town.
Reports of abduction attempts in Ackhurst Road, Chorley, and Spendmore Lane, Coppull, have grown around the school gates and on social media sites since two men tried to lure a 15-year-old girl from St Michael’s High School into their car in a lay-by outside Chorley Hospital.
Another 12-year-old girl has also been followed by a man in a car on her way to school in Leyland, and teachers in the South Ribble area have also issued urgent ‘stranger danger’ warnings to parents and youngsters.
Headteacher Alison Gibson, of Farington Moss St Paul’s CE Primary School, wrote of her “grave concern” in a special letter sent home with pupils last week.
One mum, 31, who has a nine-year-old daughter at St Laurence CE Primary in Highfield Road South, said: “All the mums are going mad about this, we want to know what’s going on.
“The teachers have gone into classrooms telling the children to be careful and my daughter is at an age where she’s heard what happened to April Jones, and she’s petrified.
“It’s the talk of the school gates about more attempted abductions.
“The police need to communicate clearly with us, and make a bigger thing of this, because it’s always at the back of my mind that something could happen.
“My daughter keeps asking when she can walk to school with her friends, but that’s out of the question for now.”
In response to concerns expressed by some people on Facebook, Chorley Police said: “We are continuing to investigate two incidents, one on Preston Road in Chorley and one on Stanifield Lane in Leyland, where two schoolgirls were approached by men in a car asking for directions.
“Fortunately, on both occasion the girls came to no harm, but were left shaken and upset by their experience.
“Following an extensive appeal for information through the press and local schools, we have received a number of further reports of suspicious activity which we are currently looking at and the safety of the community will remain of paramount importance.
“However, I would like to stress we haven’t had any further incidents whereby any school children have actually been approached.
“Neighbourhood policing officers will continue to maintain strong links with schools to discuss any developments and where appropriate further information will be released via the appropriate channels. People need to be wary of misinformation provided by channels other than the schools or police.”
Teachers at both primary and secondary schools in the area have issued letters, online warnings and text messages to parents, as well as holding assemblies for pupils, following the confirmed incident on November 14.
Police said the girl was left “shaken” after being approached by the men in a black Fiat saloon as she made her way to school at 8.15am.
Parklands High School in Southport Road, Chorley, has issued a safety warning on its website, stating: “Please would all pupils be vigilant on their way to and from school and to ensure that they do not walk home alone, particularly if walking down Southport Road towards Tesco/Euxton. They should either be walking in groups or arranging to be collected from school.”
A spokesman for Whittle-le-Woods CE Primary School, in Preston Road, said: “As soon as we heard about the incidents, we sent out a group text to parents warning them to be vigilant.
“We have also held assemblies for the children, taking a slightly different approach because of their ages.
“It’s good to be proactive and to be aware of what is happening..”
A spokesman for St Michael’s CE High School, said: “We have held school assemblies and have issued advice to parents. We are asking children to be aware of strangers and not to walk home alone if they can help it.”
Two days after the Chorley incident, on Friday, November 16, a 12-year-old schoolgirl was approached and then followed by a man in a car in Stanifield Lane, Leyland.
The girl, who was heading to school at 8.15am, was asked for directions by a man in a dark coloured car, and as she walked away, he followed her, driving slowly along Moss Lane.
Mrs Gibson, of Farington Moss St Paul’s Primary, wrote in her letter to parents: “In recent days there have been several incidents of attempted abductions of children in the area. This is of grave concern and police are investigating these incidents.
“I have spoken to the children today about not talking to strangers. Please can you ensure your child is collected from school and is not walking home alone, particularly as it is getting dark earlier.”
Mrs Gibson told the Guardian: “I felt it was important that the parents were alerted to these incidents so they an make sure their children are kept safe.
“I just thought it was my duty of care to the children that parents should know this.”