Armed police and dogs hunted woodland after two girls were threatened by a machete-wielding attacker dressed as a clown.12The teenagers were approached by a man in a clown outfit in Bury St Edmunds at around 6.25pm on Saturday, police said. He had run up to the girls, threatening to hurt them in Durham Close. They ran away and, while they weren’t injured, they were left shaken and upset.

Within minutes, firearms units and police dogs were combing the streets, along with the woodland and nearby industrial estate. Nobody fitting the clown’s description was found, however. The incident is the latest in the “killer clown” craze, which began in the US but has now spread to the UK.

There have been hundreds of reports of clowns chasing children armed with weapons such as knives or baseball bats. The charity Childline, which was set up to help children who are distressed, was called at least 120 times last week. Many calls were from youngsters upset by the clowns and under the age of 11.

Among the most recent incidents was a 10-year-old boy in Plymouth being threatened by a clown carrying a hammer. An 11-year-old girl was chased by a clown waving an axe in Workington. Earlier this month a knife-carrying clown was reported to be following four youngsters to school in Chester-Le-Street, County Durham. Also, a suspect wearing a clown mask and carrying a fake gun was arrested by police on Tuesday about five miles from Heathrow Airport.