Police in England and Ireland issue warning over 'killer clowns'
Further warnings have been issued about "killer clowns" in a craze that is sweeping the globe.
In the latest spate of incidents, Gloucestershire Police said they had received six reports of people dressed as clowns acting suspiciously, following members of the public or wielding knives in the Gloucester area.
Officers said the incidents were not just causing alarm in the community but also tying up police resources.
A spokesman said: "The reports have been made in the Gloucester area and have mostly involved clowns carrying knives. In one case a child was followed.
"Clearly this has scared people and caused real distress. We have attended these incidents as grade one emergencies and that limits our ability to attend to other incidents.
"We haven't traced anyone involved as yet as they have disappeared by the time we arrive, but anyone we do find will be dealt with appropriately.
"Whether those involved are doing it for a joke or not, this is no laughing matter.
"These are stupid acts that are really frightening people and wasting our time. Please don't be tempted to do it. Think of the consequences."
The craze appears to have been inspired by clown-related pranks in the US and has seen a string of copycat incidents across the country.
A masked man carrying a knife left a group of children aged 11 and 12 "upset and distressed" when he jumped out as they were on their way to Hermitage Academy in Chester-le-Street, County Durham, at 8.40am on Friday.
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 Police said.
Tom Jackson, 18, a first year student at Leeds Beckett University, said he was "very scared" when he saw a man dressed as a clown near an underpass in Leeds at 4.30am on Friday.
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.
Earlier this week, Northumbria Police issued a 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 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.
Police are warning potential offenders they may be committing a public order offence.
In Belfast, the PSNI also issued a statement.
"Police have received several reports in relation to posts that have been made on social media platforms where individuals have suggested dressing in clown costumes and going to schools to scare students and teachers.
"Police are aware that posts of this nature have been placed on various social media platforms by people living in England and Dublin."
Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin added: “I would advise anyone who may be considering posting information on social media platforms to consider what they’re saying. Encouraging behaviour that has the potential to generate fear or indeed posting threatening messages can lead to a criminal record.
“Crime is crime, whether in the virtual world or the real world and there are consequences. Please don’t get caught up in something that could jeopardise your future.”
And officers on patrol in north Belfast last night declared the area 'clown free'.
People on social media have also reported clown sightings in Cheshire, North Wales, Dundee, Norwich, London, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield.