A COMMUNITY is living in fear after it was revealed a man who tried to kidnap a two-year-old girl at knifepoint remains on the run.
Close-knit neighbours today revealed they are scared to let their children play outside after finding out the man responsible for snatching the toddler as she played in her back garden was still on the streets.
Ellie Gibson was at home on Erdington Road, Blackpool, when the assailant jumped over a 6ft wall, used a knife to slash at a trampoline and grabbed her.
Her playmate Jodie Ferguson, seven, screamed for help and Ellie’s mum Janine managed to grab her daughter from the man as he made his getaway.
It was later revealed police had a suspect in custody following an incident on the same evening when a 30-year-old man was found in a four-year-old girl’s bedroom in South Shore, but he has now been cleared of snatching Ellie.
Police are now asking parents to keep a constant watch over their children and report any suspicious activity to the police. Senior investigating officer Det Chief Insp Andrea Barrow said: “This is an incredibly serious offence and the man responsible is still outstanding. I’m keen to speak to anyone who was in the Erdington Road area between 5pm and 7pm to come forward and contact police.”
The man police are searching for was described as white, around 5ft 10in and between 20 and 30 years old.
He had short brown hair and was wearing a dark T-shirt, black trousers and was thought to have escaped towards Princess Street on a bike.
Det Insp Sue Cawley, of Blackpool CID, said: “Incidents like this are rare and having two incidents within such close proximity we couldn’t rule out they could be linked.
“We have made a lot of inquiries, spoken to witness, gathered forensic evidence and viewed CCTV and are satisfied the man arrested was not responsible for the incident on Erdington Road.
“Patrols have been stepped up in the area.
“An incident room has been opened and we have a large number of dedicated and experienced officers working on this investigation in a bid to catch the person responsible at the earliest opportunity.
“While he didn’t offer violence towards the children, one of the children has described seeing a knife and he was willing to frighten them. We want to reassure people that this incident is very rare but the ordinary precautions people would make would apply.
“We would ask parents to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the police. Should anyone have any concerns they can contact us.
“It’s been very distressing for the family and they are still shocked but they are being supported by officers.”
Anyone with information can call Blackpool Police on (01253) 293933 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
FOR MORE ON THIS STORY SEE TUESDAY’S GAZETTE