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Shock after attempt to snatch girl from Lakelands Park in Freemantle area of Southampton
RESIDENTS say they are shocked and angry after the news that a man tried to grab a young girl in a city park.
The young girl told police how the terrifying ordeal began when she was approached by the man as she walked to school.
The youngster described how the man began talking to her before grabbing hold of her in the park, which is also known as Freemantle Lake Park.
She told police how the man said to her: “Why are you in the park on your own? That’s a bad choice.”
The schoolgirl then described how the man grabbed her with both arms but she managed to break free from his grasp and run off.
However, the man then chased her out of the park and into the street before she eventually ran off and raised the alarm.
The attack, which happened during the morning school run on Monday at Lakelands Park in Freemantle, has left parents in the area fearing for the safety of their children.
Nearby residents who use the park, which is popular with families who use the children’s play area, told the Daily Echo of their “shock” at the incident, with one saying: “It’s even more shocking for the fact that it happened at a busy time of day.”
Police are now investigating and are appealing for anyone who was in the area of the park, also known as Freemantle Lake Park, at around 8am to come forward with information to help find the man, who was described by the victim as scruffy and dirty.
Investigating officer PC Dan Turner said: “At the time of this incident there would have been dog walkers and other children and their parents in the park making their way to nearby schools.
“The man chased the child out of the park on to Paynes Road and then Waterloo Road. This would have been seen by people in the area during this busy school run period.”
Helen Bowden, 32, a graphic designer from Foundry Lane, said: “It’s shocking that it happened at that time of the morning.
"You often hear about these incidents in relation to children, but it’s definitely scary that it happened so close to home.”
Fellow resident Andrew Lyall, 38, from Fir Grove, Southampton, said: “It makes me really angry. I
used to walk to school when I was a kid, it’s part of growing up and getting independence.
"If I become a parent I really wouldn’t want to have to be a hawk looking over my children’s shoulders.”
One of the area’s ward councillors, Jeremy Moulton, said: “It’s really shocking that this has happened and it’s vital that the man is caught quickly, so if anyone sawanything suspicious or recognises the man’s description they should contact the police immediately.”
The suspect has been described as being middle-aged, white and scruffy.
He had brown, greying hair which was below his ears, was missing several teeth and was very tall.
He wore a grey or dirty turquoise long-sleeved T-shirt with rips in both arms, dirty white shoes without shoelaces and dark trousers, which may be jogging bottoms.
Police investigating the incident have appealed for witnesses to come forward and identify the man.
Anyone with information should call PC Turner at the Redbridge Police Office on 101.
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