AN EIGHT-YEAR-OLD girl was sexually attacked by a man under a footbridge.

The child was alone at the time of the assault, which happened in Padiham at 1pm yesterday.

She is now being supported by police counsellors.

Police said the youngster was near the bridge, which runs over a brook between Mini Sport, just off Thompson Street, and Canning Street, when she was approached by the attacker.

When the girl, who was not seriously injured, was spoken to by officers, she said she did not know the man. Crime scene investigators were scouring the scene for clues yesterday.

Detectives, who said the man had put his hands under clothing, were also studying CCTV images and carrying out house-to-house inquiries.

Padiham councillor John Harbour said the attack had shocked the town.

He said: “It is very distressing for the family and friends of the little girl.

“It is the school holidays and all the children are playing out.

“Hopefully the police are on it and are acting on information that they have received.

“In my opinion, it is very rare for something like this to happen in Padiham.

“We have a good community and something like this upsets everybody.

“If anybody does know anything, please report it to the police and let us hope we can get this cleared up.”

Neighbours also described their horror on hearing about the assault.

One, who asked not to be named, said: It is a horrible thing to happen.

“It is usually really quiet around here.”

A spokesman for Lancashire Police appealed for information.

He said: “We received a report at about 1pm yesterday that an eight-year-old girl had been sexually touched by a man on Thompson Street.

“We do not know who he is, but investigations are underway and we are trying to track the offender.

“The girl is now being supported by specially trained officers.

“She did not need hospital treatment and is now back at home.”

Anybody with information is asked to call police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.