The parents of a seven-year-old girl witnessed her being stabbed to death in a random attack by a stranger in a public park, police have said.

The suspect, a 30-year-old woman, was detained under the Mental Health Act on Monday, following the incident in Queen's Park, Bolton, at around 2.30pm on Sunday.

The tragic death has left a town in shock.

As police continue their investigations, people have spoken of their disbelief. The scene is only a couple of hundred yards from a children’s play area.

The Bolton News:

On Monday morning, the park was bathed in sunshine but almost deserted except for dog walkers, though tributes of flowers and teddy bears had been left at park gates and at a tree on the edge of the cordon.

A card from Heaton Preschool, signed by “Auntie Shelley, Jodi, Becki and Auntie Laura”, read: “Good night princess, fly high! Always in our thoughts.”

A teddy bear and flowers were left beside the card, with two more teddies and flowers left inside the park.

Cllr Linda Thomas, whose ward Queens Park falls under, said: “This is heartbreaking ­— in the middle of a much loved parked that usually gives so much pleasure and a healthy pastime to so many.

“It is devastating that this could happen.”

Assistant Chief Constable Rush Jackson, of Greater Manchester Police (GMP), said: "It is hard to describe how terrible this incident was. The attack happened in front of the parents of this little girl, who had taken her out yesterday afternoon to enjoy the spring sun and play in the park.

"Having seen this horrendous attack, a member of the public bravely chased after the woman and detained her until police arrived and arrested her.

"I would like to thank him for his actions which enabled us to quickly arrest her and prevent anything else from happening.

"The woman arrested yesterday (Sunday 22 March 2020) at the scene of the attack on the little girl in Bolton has now been detained under the Mental Health Act.

"We have informed the family of the woman's detention. They are understandably distraught over what happened yesterday and we will continue to support them with family liaison officers in the coming months."

Mr Jackson added: "Several officers who attended the park were very young in service in the police, some with only weeks on independent police patrol. They and all the officers who went to the scene are incredibly upset over what has happened and all of us have this little girl and her family in our thoughts.

"I want to stress that this is not an end to the criminal investigation. We will consider the evidence and consult with the Crown Prosecution Service and, if appropriate, we will be seeking criminal charges."

Cllr Thomas, who is also the opposition leader, said she would be asking about what support can given to those who need it in the aftermath of the attack.

The Bolton News:

Messages of shock and upset were left on The Bolton News Facebook page.

Vicki Hardman wrote: “ I cannot stop thinking about this poor little girl who had her whole life ahead of her and the torment and unimaginable.”

Jolene Dodd added: “ Having your baby taken away in such terrible circumstances.

“Nothing could be more painful. Absolutely heartbreaking.”

Kate Spencer wrote: “This is heartbreaking, RIP little girl, my thoughts are with her family.”

The Bolton News:

Neither the girl or the woman detained under the Mental Health Act has been named by police.