Norfolk police has moved to ease fears over rumours that a man had been approaching children in Thetford and the Forest Heath areas.

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Speculation mounted after legitimate reports earlier this month that a nine-year-old girl was approached in Lakenheath by a man aged between 50 and 60 years old.

Since then, rumours have circulated through social networking sites about a so-called suspicious black Mercedes van in the Forest Heath and Breckland areas.

A police spokesman said the force was investigating the Lakenheath incident but that there had been no others.

He also stressed that an email circulated about the van to schools, which included a specific registration number, alleging to be from Norfolk Constabulary, was false.

“Vans matching descriptions submitted by the public have been stop-checked by officers,” he said. “These have been legitimate tradesmen – but intelligence has been gathered. None of the index numbers circulated by members of the public are suspects in any such incidents at this time.”

The Diamond Academy in Thetford, formerly Queensway Junior School, issued a letter to its parents on Tuesday of this week warning them of reports of a black van, and included a registration number, after staff and parents voiced their concerns.

Head Laura Jestico said the reports also coincided with a man seen loitering outside the school perimeter.

She added that she would now send out a statement from Norfolk police quashing the rumours in the school’s newsletter.

“I felt I would rather forewarn my parents and make sure they and the pupils were being vigilant,” she said. “Hindsight is a wonderful thing and it would have been nice to receive the police information earlier but we didn’t, so I chose to take a course of action I felt was appropriate.”

Officers are continuing to investigate the Lakenheath incident which happened on October 15 and involved a nine-year-old girl who was walking along The Mallards at 3.30pm.

A large black Mercedes van allegedly pulled up alongside her and a man, believed to be between 50 and 60 years old, got out and touched her on the shoulder. He was described as having pale skin, brown and grey hair and an average build. He was wearing a black T-shirt and grey trousers with trainers. The black van had no rear windows.

The girl immediately ran away from the scene and the man did not try to speak to her.

The spokesman said that police were conducting targeted high-visibility patrols and working closely with local schools.

A second incident also occurred later the same day at about 7.45pm in Highlands, Lakenheath, when a 32-year-old woman was walking her dog.

A man with a black labrador approached her, grabbed the woman’s arm and asked her to come with him. She quickly left the scene.

He was described as white, 6ft 2in, in his late 40s to early 50s, and with a skinny build. He was wearing a camouflage coat, black beanie hat, dark trousers and boots.

Suffolk police have said that while they are keeping an open mind they do not believe the two incidents are connected.

Anyone with information on either incident should contact Suffolk Police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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