A YOUNG girl with Down’s Syndrome was beaten up by a gang of older girls as she played in a Bolton park.

The 12-year-old was in Heywood Park, Great Lever, at 7.30pm on Wednesday, June 12, when she was attacked 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 by the group of girls.

The attack has shocked parents across the Great Lever community.

Father-of-two Iqbal Malek lives opposite the High Street park and regularly lets his children play there.

Mr Malek, aged 53, said: “It’s very sad to hear about such a shocking incident just across the road. I have young children who play out there all the time but I always keep an eye on them.

“I always make sure they are playing with other children they know and don’t stay out too late.

“But this is very shocking and I’m not sure how I feel about letting my children play there now.”

A mum-of-four, who asked not to be named, said Heywood Park already has an unsafe reputation.

The 47-year-old of Charlesworth Avenue said: “I think it’s disgraceful. Obviously we don’t know the full details of what happened but if it was other children, I just don’t know how they could have done that.

“Then again, that park is known for being unsafe. My son was attacked down on the same park a few years ago.”

The Bolton News first became aware of reports of the attack on Saturday — but police said they could find no record of the incident.

Officers 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.”

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

See the original story here: 12-year-old girl with Down's syndrome 'attacked by gang of girls in park'