A 26-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of subjecting an 11-year-old girl to a two-hour rape an in a park on her way home from school.
The man was arrested in Edmonton, north London, and is being held in custody following the attack in nearby Enfield, which left the girl needing surgery.
She was raped as she walked home along a busy shortcut after getting off a bus on Friday afternoon.
The girl realised she was being followed and tried to zig-zag across the road, but the attacker grabbed her and pulled her into Jubilee Park, where the brutal attack took place.
The victim finally got home around 8pm and told her distressed parents what had happened and they took her to hospital.
The park lies opposite a row of smart houses in the affluent north London suburb.
Police are still appealing for witnesses, with up to 60 officers working on the investigation.
Detective Inspector Simon Ellershaw, who is leading the investigation for the Sapphire Command, said: ‘It’s a brutal attack on a defenceless 11-year-old girl. It doesn’t need me to say how serious an attack this is.
‘This was a horrific and unusual attack of a defenceless school girl making her way home via her usual route, along one of Enfield’s busiest shortcuts, at the beginning of Friday afternoon rush-hour.
‘She says the attack happened for some considerable time – possibly in the region of two to three hours.
‘I am appealing to motorists, pedestrians and any one who may have been using the park between 16.45hrs-20.00hrs, who may have seen a man following a girl in school uniform, to contact us.
‘An extensive search of the park is underway and local officers are conducting house-to-house enquiries, and we have already been receiving helpful information from members of the public.
‘Given the significant and unaccounted amount of time between the incident and the victim’s arrival home, we are particularly keen to speak to anyone who may have seen her possibly appearing confused or dishevelled following her ordeal.
‘All calls will be treated in the utmost confidence.’
He said the girl was being supported by her family and they are hoping she will make a full recovery.
Local residents spoke of their disbelief that such an attack had happened within yards of commuters walking home.
Lewis Francis, 28, said: ‘I imagine the poor girl’s family must have thought it would be safe for her to walk home in the afternoon from the bus stop because lots of people are about at that time.
‘People I know are not going to let their children walk to school alone now – at least not until he is caught.’
Officers from Scotland Yard’s Sapphire Unit, which investigates rape and sexual assault in the capital, have interviewed the victim in hospital.
Chief Inspector Taylor Wilson, based at Enfield, said: ‘Over the course of the weekend police have been working using every resource available to support the victim, identify the suspect and provide a police response to increase confidence and provide reassurance to residents.
‘Although this is an isolated and extremely rare incident, we are treating this with the utmost seriousness.
‘A number of specific reassurance measures have been put in place by Enfield Police.
‘With immediate effect, officers have increased patrols at Jubilee Park and other parks within the borough. There will be a high visibility police presence around schools, and we are in close liaison with key partner agencies and to keep our communities, especially parents and pupils, fully informed of any developments.
‘The investigation is being run by a specialised unit from Edmonton Police Station.
‘They are working hard identify the suspect and offer dedicated support to the victim and her family.’