A MOTHER today spoke of her horror after her eight-year-old daughter was dragged into an alleyway and assaulted.

The attacker, believed to be in his 20s, snatched the primary school pupil after she called at a local baker's for some cakes.

He grabbed her from behind, covered her mouth and slapped her across the face after she tried to scream for help.

Her mother, 32, said her daughter had been left in a state of shock after the attack and spoke of her bravery at struggling free.

The girl was walking along Monton Road, Darwen, from D & M Marsden's Confectioners when the attack happened at 4.30pm on Friday.

Her attacker escaped in a black car, believed to be a Volvo, which was parked in an adjoining alley and driven by another man.

Police today urged witnesses to come forward following the "worrying" attack but said door to door inquiries over the weekend had yet to produce any concrete leads.

The mother, who wants to remain anonymous for safety reasons, said: "The hand mark from the man's slap was imprinted on her face for 20 minutes after the incident.

"The whole family is very distressed and we can not even begin to imagine what might have happened and what his intentions were. We just can't believe it.

"I feel sick inside -- it's not normal. I will not be letting my daughter go back there again and I don't think she will even want to."

The primary school pupil left the shop and was snatched while her young friend waited for change.

Detective Sergeant Paul Elms of Darwen CID said: "This is a very worrying attack on a young girl which at this time seems to be motiveless.

"The attacker grabbed her around the mouth and pulled her into the alley. She has managed to scream and kick her way free but he slapped her across the face.

"The man then ran towards a waiting car and was driven away by someone else."

Her mother added: "In some ways it is lucky that my daughter is quite strong -- her friend would not have stood a chance. She was very brave and burst into tears when I arrived. She did everything she could.

"She recognised the Volvo badge because her dad has the same car and the lights came on as soon as the engine was switched on. She has a good memory and we want this man caught."

Det Sgt Elms added: "At this stage we are trying not to speculate over the motivation for this crime and we are keen to hear from anyone with more information."

The girl was interviewed by a specially-trained police officer on Friday and again over the weekend at a specialist centre in Wilpshire, Blackburn.

The man is described as white with orange skin, possibly a sun tan, with brown or black hair. He is said to be 5ft 7in tall and was wearing a green top, blue jeans and white Nike trainers.

Anyone with more information should call Darwen CID on 01254 353842.