POLICE have appealed for calm after a man indecently assaulted a four-year-old boy.

The boy and a younger child were playing in Priory Road, Jarrow, South Tyneside, near to the Shell oil refinery, when the attack happened between 6.30pm and 6.45pm on Sunday.

Specially-trained police officers were last night investigating the incident while the boy was being comforted by family.

Police said he was not physically injured, but was left distressed by the assault.

No other information was available on the younger child, who was not thought to have been hurt.

Officers are worried the assault could lead to vigilante action in the Jarrow area following recent attacks on suspected paedophiles across Britain in the wake of the Sarah Payne murder.

Detective Inspector Peter Farrell, of South Shields CID, urged the public not to take the law into their own hands and to pass on any information to the police.

He said: "This is a very sensitive issue, but the best way people can help us apprehend this man is to pass on their information.

"We are appealing for intelligence about anyone who people may not be happy with, whose behaviour has changed recently or who has moved to the area and we can then eliminate them from our inquiries.

"It was still light at that time and there must have been people out and about who may have seen somebody or something and haven't made the connection.

"If people were in that area around the time of the incident or shortly afterwards we would urge them to come forward."

Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 0191-454 7555