DETECTIVES in Wigan have arrested a 25-year-old man in connection with an assault and blackmail bid on two men who police suspect were attempting to groom teenage girls.
The 25-year-old is being held in connection with two vigilante-style attacks over the weekend.
In a seperate development, police have also charged 25-year-old Andrew O’Neill, of Skelmersdale, with grooming offences.
He is due to appear in court on Monday morning.
Police say the first attack took place on Friday at around 9pm when detectives say a 19-year-old man arranged to meet, who he thought was a 14-year-old girl he had groomed on the internet, in a church car park in Atherton.
But upon arrival he was filmed being attacked by a group of men who accused him of being a paedophile.
The man managed to get away from his attackers and he went home to find messages from the group demanding money and they said if he did not pay, they would upload the video of him on Facebook.
He reported the incident to the police the following day and has since been arrested and bailed pending further enquiries on suspicion of being an adult attempting to meet a girl under the age of 16 following grooming.
Then at 2.40pm on Saturday concerned shoppers witnessed a 25-year-old man being beaten up by a group of people at Market Place in the town centre.
They accused the man of arranging to meet a 14-year-old girl online. The man was attacked by one of the men in the group and he head butted him and two of his teeth knocked out.
Footage of the incident has since gone viral after being filmed and posted online.
The man got away from the group and went to the police station and was subsequently arrested on suspicion of being an adult attempting to meet a girl under the age of 16 following grooming and remains in police custody for questioning.
Police are now appealing for any witnesses to the attacks and the alleged grooming.
Det Insp Charlotte Cadden from Bolton division, said: “These men were targeted because they had illegally arranged to meet up with underage girls online.
“I want to make it clear that grooming and arranging to meet up with children you have met over the internet is a criminal offence and if you are caught doing this you will be arrested and prosecuted.
“It is unacceptable that this group are posing as underage girls and meeting up with men with the view to either blackmailing them or attacking them in the street.
“If you have any information regarding these incidents, please contact the police as soon as possible”
The first offender that attacked the 18-year-old is described as white, aged between 18 - 20, shaven brown hair, wearing a white t-shirt, a black tracksuit and was carrying a black Foot Asylum drawstring bag. He has a tattooed left arm.
The second is described as a white woman, about 5ft 4in tall with reddish, dark hair wearing a grey hoodie and a black top.
The third is described as a white man, aged in his 40s, 5ft 4in tall, wearing glasses and carrying a walking stick.
The fourth is described as a white man with short brown receding hair and wearing a blue T-Shirt.
Anyone with any information is asked to call police on 101 or independent charity Crimestoppers 0800 555 111.