DETECTIVES are treating this morning's incident in Churchgate as an attempted rape in which a woman was dragged to the ground by a man with a knife.

Officers say they have a man in custody in connection with the incident.

Police were called to the area just before 7am after reports a woman had been grabbed by an unknown man.

They have now released more details of their investigation - and said patrols will be stepped up in the area.

Police say the woman - aged in her 20s - was walking along Churchgate when she was approached from behind by a man with a knife, dragged to the ground and attempted to sexually assault her.

He was then disturbed by a passer-by and calmly walked away from the scene - leaving the knife behind, which has since been recovered by police.

Officers said the woman wasn't injured but was left understandably shaken by the incident and is being supported by specialist officers.

Detectives are investigating several lines of enquiry, including that the offender followed another lone woman in the moments before the attack, before she disappeared out of his sight.

A 40-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of attempt rape and remains in custody for questioning.

An increased number of high-visibility patrols will be in the area over the weekend in response to the incident.

Detective Inspector Jill Vescovi, of GMP's Bolton CID, said: "This was a terribly frightening and shocking incident that occurred before dawn in the town centre this morning and we are rapidly pursuing several lines of enquiry to catch the man responsible for this attack.

"The repugnancy of this incident is exacerbated by the offender's audacity in not only attacking the woman, but then nonchalantly walking away after he had become disturbed by a passer-by.

"We hope that this arrest will reassure the public that we are doing all we can to solve this crime, but our investigation is ongoing and it is important than anyone with information contacts us with any details that may aid our enquiries.

"Our specialist officers are supporting the victim at this time and I would like to commend her bravery for fending off the attacker while he was threatening her with a bladed article and attempting to sexually assault her.

"There will be an increase in high-visibility patrols in the town centre over the weekend and I urge anyone with concerns to approach our officers and know that any information will be treated with the strictest confidence."

Anyone with information should call police on 0161 856 5757 quoting incident number 469 of 02/10/2020. Details can also be passed in confidence to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.