Parents are demanding justice after claiming two schoolgirls were assaulted and bundled into the boot of a car in a terrifying ordeal.
The mother of one of the 15-year-olds alleges her daughter later felt intimidated by police officers not to press charges.
And the families say they have since been subjected to a cruel social media campaign after the Lancashire force declared publicly the shocking incident had never happened.
Louise Mannion, mother of teenager Shona, said:“What the girls endured was awful and what we as a family have had to put up with since has been disgraceful.
“People have been calling us liars on Facebook and we have even been compared to Shannon Matthews’ family, saying we made it all up to get money.”
And Terry Sandham, father of the other 15-year-old Chloe Sandham, added: “This wasn’t fake news as the police were suggesting. This was real. My girl was kicked in the ribs and locked in a car boot. Her friend Shona was hit in the face and bundled into the boot.
“Yet it’s almost like the police don’t believe them and are trying to sweep it under the carpet. Something isn’t right here. It stinks.”
Shona and Chloe were in a group of teenagers in the area near Preston’s former B&Q store off North Road on Sunday afternoon when they claim they were chased by a group of men in cars after a vehicle was damaged nearby.
Two other girls got away, but the pair were caught and say that, even though they strenuously denied committing the damage, they were subjected to a frightening attack in which they were dragged down a flight of steps and thrown into the boot of a black Mercedes.
The car drove off with the terrified teenagers frantically trying to phone their parents in total darkness.
According to their account, the car stopped after a short distance and they were dragged out and put in the rear seats of the vehicle, just as three police cars arrived on the scene.
Shona’s shocked mum Louise, who got a text message from her daughter saying a group of men had “got us locked in a car,” dialled 999 and alerted police.
“They asked me for Shona’s number so they could put a trace on it,” said Louise, who lost an 11-year-old daughter to sepsis last August and was diagnosed with cervical cancer in January.
“About 15 minutes later they called me back and said they had got her and she was safe. Police brought her back later and, sitting in our living room, more or less implied that if she went any further with the claims of being slapped and locked in the boot then they would proceed with investigations into criminal damage.
“The officer also said, ‘I presume your mum and dad can’t afford to pay for the criminal damage'. I said, ‘What?’ And Shona just stuttered and said, ‘Okay, we’ll leave it then’.
“I couldn’t believe the police could do that. But, that said, we were prepared to drop it until the stuff started going on social media.
“The police put out a tweet saying there hadn’t been any abduction in Lancashire that day, never mind in Preston. They implied it was fake news. So people started calling us liars.
“After that it went mental and we started getting a lot of grief from people who thought we had all made it up. We were being called Shannon Matthews’ family. The post got shared more than 3,000 times.
“At that point the police changed their statement on Twitter, admitting an incident had taken place, but no ‘serious’ offence had been committed.
“Since then it has all got out of hand. So we have contacted the police again and said Shona wants to take it further. She had only said ‘drop it’ because she felt intimidated with what they were saying and thought she was going to get into trouble.
“We are now waiting for an officer to visit us again and take a full statement.
“Shona is okay, although she’s still a bit shaken up by it all. She’s at a difficult stage at the moment. She’s grieving after losing her sister and then having to deal with me having cancer.
"She gets angry and lashes out. But she is adamant she didn’t damage a car and the other girls say they didn’t either.”
Terry Sandham said he was angry with police for not informing his family that Chloe had been involved in an incident. He learned about it on social media.
He said: “I can’t understand why they would allow a 15-year-old girl, who has been through the ordeal of being locked in a car, to walk home from the police station on her own and never contacted me.
“I only found out when my brother saw it on Facebook about 9.30pm that night and phoned me. I started reading the posts and I was fuming.
“To me what these blokes did is false imprisonment. How is that not a serious offence?
“The girls were traumatised by what happened. You can’t do what these people did. My daughter is still a bit panicky when she goes out now.
“I’m going to have a chat with her to see if she wants to take it any further. But surely these men can’t be allowed to get away with it.”
Sequence of events, according to the girls
Four school friends admit to “messing about” in a derelict building in Southgate, off North Road, which was destroyed by fire in December.
They claim they were chased by men in cars leading to two being caught near to the former B&Q store.
The girls allege they were thrown into the boot of a Mercedes car, which drove off, but stopped a short distance later.
Shona calledher mum saying they are being held against their will and her mum dialled 999.Shona and Chloe were then removed from the boot by the men and locked in the back seat as the police arrived.
The girls were taken to Preston Police Station before being released.
They claim the men were allowed to leave the scene.
Shona was taken home by police where her mum says she felt intimidated by an officer into dropping her claims of assault and false imprisonment.
Facebook posts prompt Preston Police to issue a denial about the incident, insisting there had been no “abduction” in the whole of the county that day.
Social media goes into meltdown with Shona’s family being accused of making it all up.
Police then issued a new statement on Twitter admitting an incident had taken place, but denying any “serious” offences had been committed or are being investigated.
Following the criticism on Facebook, Shona’s family decide to press charges and ask for police to re-interview the 15-year-old.
We asked Lancashire Police for a statement regarding the allegations being made by the families about the incident.
They said they were unable to give us a new statement and referred us to a previous statement in which they insisted the girls had not been held in the boot of the car and that a complaint of assault had been made by one of them, but then withdrawn.
They said they had received two calls around the same time reporting children “causing a nuisance” in Southgate and also criminal damage to a vehicle.
They were then forced to put out a statement on social media denying two girls had been abducted by a group of men.
They later admitted an incident had occurred, but no “serious” crime had been committed.