POLICE were keeping guard beside cordoned-off grassland after a woman reported being seriously sexually assaulted near a Sheffield school.
The alleged attack was reported to police by a woman in her early 20s.
Within hours officers had arrived in the centre of Fir Vale to tape off land between Rushby Street and Earl Marshal Road, next to Fir Vale secondary school.
Local businesspeople were asked to provide film from their CCTV cameras in case of footage from the previous night.
But police officers refused to tell locals what had happened - leading to rumours a murder had been committed, a body had been found, or someone had been stabbed.
Amelia Walker, aged 21, from Firth Park, saw a dozen officers, vans and cars around the suspected crime scene.
“I have never seen such a heavy police presence in any one area,” she said. “It was concerning.
“I saw seven officers at the bottom of the cordon, four at the top, and a couple on the other side of the street as though they were on patrol.”
Another woman, who did not want to be named, said: “Police called at my home but all they said was there had been an incident. They asked me if I seen a woman on the grass.
“I wish they had told me what had happened, because local women exercise there and children play on the grass. It’s worrying.”
Mohammed Mobeen, 43, who runs the Mashallah Store on Owler Lane, said: “It’s not good - I have a wife and children.
“When we came to work everything was normal but shortly afterwards the police came and started putting tape up around the grass.
“We didn’t see or hear anything beforehand so it was a shock as nobody knew what was happening or why.”
Hamza Salah, 21, who works in a butcher’s shop opposite the crime scene, said: “People were coming in all day with different rumours - somebody said there had been a murder, someone else said there had been a stabbing.
“When we opened up at 8am everything was normal, but then all the police came.”
Yaser Alzawqari, who runs a corner shop on Owler Lane, said: “The police tape went up and they came and asked if I had CCTV cameras or if we knew anything about what had happened. But nobody told us anything.”
Naheem Khaliq, who owns Yummies Desert Bar in Fir Vale, said: “This is a brilliant multi-cultural area where everyone lives with love and peace.
“Like all areas we get trouble but here we don’t turn a blind eye to it. People are helpful and want to see if they can do anything to make things better.”
A South Yorkshire Police spokesman would confirm only: “There is an ongoing police incident we are making inquiries into.”
Anyone with information about the alleged attack, reported to have happened between 9.30pm on Monday and 9am yesterday, should call South Yorkshire Police on 101.