Blackburn red van man warning to parents

Blackburn Citizen: Staffa Crescent Staffa Crescent

PARENTS have been told to be on alert after two young girls were approached in Blackburn by a man driving a red van.

Police said a nine-year-old girl had been told to get in the vehicle while the other girl, aged six, had run home after the man began to talk to her.

Police have urged people to vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour.

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They said in the most recent incident in Portree Crescent, at 6pm on Monday, a small red van pulled up beside the nine-year-old who had been walking along the road.

The driver told her to ‘get in the van’, but the girl ran away and her family reported it to police.

A few streets away, a six-year-old girl also reported being spoken to by a man in a red van while playing in Staffa Crescent, two weeks ago.

She also made her way home safely where her family reported what had happened.

Speaking yesterday, residents expressed their shock about the incidents.

Amy Whittingstall, a mother who lives in Portree Crescent, said: “It’s really worrying.

“When I heard about it, I was worried for other members of my family. My cousin has two young daughters and I told her about what’s happened here and she’s keeping them indoors now. That’s how scared she is.”

The driver was described by the nine-year-old as being around 40-years-old, either Asian or Black, with dark hair and a beard. He was wearing a hat.

However, the man that approached the six-year-old girl on Friday, February 28 has been described as white with a black moustache and beard and was wearing a hat and glasses.

Lancashire police have stressed that at no point during either interaction did the driver get out of the van or physically approach the girl in question.

They have launched an appeal for more information and were knocking on doors in Shadsworth on Tuesday evening hoping to collect evidence from witnesses and residents’ own CCTV cameras.

Jacqueline Harrison, a resident of Staffa Crescent, said she was approached by a man in a red van last Friday (March 3).

She said: “I saw a red van a week ago on this street and the driver was saying something to two young girls walking by in school uniforms.

“They were high school uniforms and they told him to get lost.

“Then, he called me over to the van. I was about to walk over but then I noticed him looking in the back of the van and moving his mouth, like he was talking to someone.

“My brain just told me not to approach him and that there was something dodgy about it. He sped off beeping his horn.

“Just a few days later, there’s a policewoman knocking on our door asking about a red van approaching young girls.”

Nearby Shadsworth Junior School has been warning their pupils about the events during special assembleys with the police.

Jenny Hetherington, headteacher at Shadsworth Junior School, said: “The police have been into school to discuss an issue linked to a possible car stopping to talk to children on the estate in the evenings.

“Our children are very well informed about all aspects of stranger danger and the subject was reinforced in classes again yesterday (Wednesday, March 12).”

Shadsworth and Whitebirk councillor said: “The ages of these girls are very young indeed and although I wouldn’t want to panic residents, I do think that if anyone has any information at all they should contact the police immediately.”

Detective Sergeant Ian Procter said: “We understand that people are going to be alarmed and concerned and we would like to reassure people that we take reports like this seriously and that it is being thoroughly investigated.

“Neighbourhood policing officers have been, and will continue to be, in contact with people in the area, and parents are reminded to be vigilant at all times.

“As is sometimes the case when people start to talk about such incidents local and on social media for example, stories are confused and added to as they are passed on, without any malicious intent, and after the story has been retold a few times it can become exaggerated.

“It is really important that people report first hand instances of suspicious behaviour directly to the police and to try and avoid repeating gossip and third hand information.”

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