A 12-year-old girl with Down's syndrome was beaten up by a gang of older girls in a Bolton park, it has been claimed.

The youngster was playing in Bobby Heywood Park, Great Lever, at 7.30pm on Wednesday, June 12, when she was assaulted by a group of girls, police said.

The girl, who had to be taken to Manchester Children's Hospital with a serious head injury, had at first said she had fallen off a swing.

Her family later reported to police on Friday that she had been attacked, however.

Police are now appealing for anyone who may have been in the park at the time, or has any information about what happened, to contact them.

Insp Andy Sidebotham, who is in charge of the Bolton central neighbourhood police team, said: "This incident has quite rightly caused a lot of concern both in the community and on social media networks and I want to reassure everyone that we are taking this extremely seriously.

"Due to the girl's obvious vulnerability, this case is clearly very emotive, but I want to stress to everyone that we have launched a painstaking investigation to get to the bottom of what happened.

"It is important that officers are allowed to do our jobs and get on with catching those responsible.

"With that in mind we have been speaking to the victim, her family and witnesses, but we still want to hear from anyone who may have been in the playground last Wednesday afternoon.

"The victim initially stated she had fallen off a swing, but her family contacted us several days afterwards to state she had actually been assaulted.

"So, did you maybe see the victim in the park at the time and notice a group of girls hanging round?

"You may not have thought much of it at the time, but clearly this could be relevant to our investigation.

"If you have any information than please get in touch."

Anyone with information is asked to call police in Bolton on 0161 8565619 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.

See reaction to the incident here: Community's horror after girl, 12, attacked in Bolton park