Police issue warnings over 'clown craze' sweeping UK
People dressed as clowns have been involved in a spate of incidents across the UK prompting police forces to issue warnings about the so-called 'clown craze' trend.
School children are being targeted on their way to school as part of the "clown craze", also known as "Killer Clown" - a trend that seems to have been inspired by clown-related pranks in the US, police said.
A masked man carrying a knife left a group of children aged 11 and 12 "upset and distressed" when he jumped out on their way to the Hermitage Academy in Chester-le-Street, County Durham, at 8.40am on Friday.
While in Suffolk, a boy "younger than a teenager" was chased by "several people dressed as clowns" in Beatty Road, Sudbury, at 8pm on Thursday, Suffolk Constabulary confirmed.
Tom Jackson, 18, a first year student at Leeds Beckett University told the Press Association he was "very scared" when he saw a man dressed as a clown near an underpass in Leeds at 4.30am on Friday.
Earlier this week, Northumbria Police issued an appeal and warning after a series of incidents in Newcastle involving people dressed as clowns jumping out and scaring schoolchildren.
A 13-year-old boy was arrested in the Blakelaw area of the city on Tuesday following reports of someone dressed as a clown attempting to scare passers-by.
In Essex, two Clacton County High School schoolgirls were approached by two people dressed as clowns who asked them if they wanted to attend a birthday party at 9.20am on Tuesday.
Neighbourhood Sergeant Mel Sutherland, of Durham Police, said: "I would like to appeal directly to the people who are dressing up and carrying out these stupid acts to think seriously about what they are doing, the distress they are causing to young children is unnecessary and it needs to stop."
While others have mostly escaped unharmed from the "frightening" incidents, police are warning potential offenders they still may be committing a Public Order Offence.
Acting Chief Inspector Darren Deex, of Essex Police, said: "It would appear the intentions of these 'clowns' is to scare members of the public however to date there have been no reports of physical threats of harm or violence being caused.
"We would also like to warn people who are thinking of being actively involved in this 'craze' that in doing so they may commit offences under the Public Order Act 1986 and to be more considerate of the feelings of others, especially young children and the elderly."
People on social media have also reported clown sightings in Cheshire, North Wales, Dundee, Norwich, London, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield.
A man dressed as a clown "wearing a hockey mask and a blood-stained poncho" was captured on camera in Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester on Thursday evening.
Graham Lowndes-Buckley was on a bus in Katherine Street when he spotted the man, who was apparently "screaming and shouting".
Mr Lowndes-Buckley, 19, from Ashton, said: "At the time I found it funny, I won't lie. But when I got home and posted on Facebook I realised how many people were scared. It's sad, because the area he was in is full of flats and houses and children play on that street in the day.
"I've seen many videos of clowns in the US, but every day you log in to Facebook and this craze is everywhere, not just the US any more. Newcastle, Liverpool, some say they've been seen in London too, but now they're here in Manchester, Ashton."
Since Mr Lowndes-Buckley posted his video to Facebook on Thursday, it has been viewed 93,000 times.