DETECTIVES investigating an attempted rape in the town centre on Friday morning are examining CCTV footage captured by cameras installed in and around the grounds of Bolton Parish Church.

A 40-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of attempted rape remains in custody.

Police launched an investigation after being called to reports a woman had been grabbed by a man on Churchgate in Bolton just before 7am.

Officers later revealed the woman, in her 20s, was subject to a terrifying ordeal when she was approached from behind by a man with a knife who dragged her to the ground and attempted to sexually assault her.

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

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

A large part of Churchgate near Bolton Parish Church was cordoned off until late morning, with people not being to drive down Silverwell Street or Princess Street and the grounds of the church were also taped off as part of the investigation.

Police are appealing for witnesses as they follow 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.

As part of the investigation they are looking at CCTV footage from church cameras, which capture not only the grounds but also part of Churchgate.

Cllr John Walsh, church warden, said: "Several years ago the church invested £130,000 on improved security in the grounds, including CCTV footage and lighting.

"We pay for that footage to be monitored.

"Police have looked at the CCTV as part of their investigation and indicated to me that is a crucial part of their enquiries.

"We will continue to assist police following this awful incident which has taken place."

Police will be stepping up patrols in the area this weekend.

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 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.