A BOY is fighting for his life after a stabbing attack on a quiet country road.
Two boys, one aged 12 and the other 13, were attacked by a man with a knife at the junction of Southleigh Road and Eastleigh Road in Havant.
The 12-year-old boy was flown by air ambulance to Southampton General Hospital where his condition is described as life-threatening.
The 13-year-old was taken by road ambulance to Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham where he is in a serious but stable condition.
The attack happened just before 3pm yesterday.
Police arrived quickly at the scene and arrested a 43-year-old man of no fixed address.
The man remains in custody and police have launched an investigation to the attack called Operation Narrow.
Chief Inspector Patrick Holdaway said: ‘My thoughts go out to the children who have been hurt and their families.
‘We’re providing assistance to them at the current time and both children are being treated in hospital for their injuries.’
Insp Holdaway said police neighbourhood teams were doing extra patrols across the area in an effort to reassure the public the attack was an isolated incident.
He said: ‘We’d like to reassure the local community that no-one else is being sought in connection with this assault at this time.
‘Thankfully no-one else was hurt in the incident and there is no further risk to members of the public.
‘Our enquiries indicate that a school in the local area had an inset day, so there were not large groups of parents and children in the area when the assault happened shortly before 3pm.
‘Local officers will also be patrolling across the weekend and will be speaking to local residents to keep them informed.’
The stretch of road is often used as a shortcut between Havant and Emsworth and is used by school pupils from Warblington School and St James’ Primary School, in Emsworth.
Eyewitnesses described their disbelief as emergency services descended on the area at school hometime.
One eyewitness said: ‘I was walking along Horndean Road at 3.30pm, just as the children were coming out of St James Primary School and Warblington School.
‘There was a very loud helicopter circling above and all the mums and children were wondering what was going on. The police had put up a cordon stopping anyone going into Southleigh Road.
‘There were lots of police cars and an ambulance.
‘I just can’t believe what’s happened. It’s horrific.
‘And in a small town like Emsworth which is usually so quiet. It’s awful.
‘I saw a few young girls on the side of the road very upset’.
Police are talking to witnesses.
They have appealed for anyone who may have seen anything out of the ordinary in the area shortly before 3pm to come forward.
Call 101 quoting Operation Narrow.
Alternatively, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Additional reporting by Elise Brewerton and Stuart Anderson
Shock from communiy leaders following brutal attack
Community leaders have spoken of their horror over the attack.
Emsworth Residents Association chairwoman Jo Dyer said she was appalled by the reports.
Ms Dyer said she was particularly worried about the child who was taken to Southampton General Hospital.
She said: ‘Any action like this is appalling and we will wait to hear more from the police.
‘I was particularly concerned to hear that one of them was sent to Southampton, because that suggests something neurological.’
Havant Borough Council Emsworth ward Councillor Brendan Gibb-Gray said the attack was ‘absolutely devastating’.
He said: ‘It’s unbelievable in a sense, that something like this should happen in this sleepy part of the world.
‘It’s so sad.’
Cllr Rivka Cresswell, of Emsworth, said she was shocked to hear about the attack. Cllr Cresswell said the area was normally thought of as safe, and the news was upsetting to many people.
She said: ‘It’s hard to comprehend that this can happen locally. I’ve lived here for 30 years and I can’t recall anything like this in the past. I’m quite upset about it.
‘We need to find out the reason why it happened to stop it happening again in the future. My sympathies go out to the families.’
Cllr Colin Mackey, also of Emsworth, said he wanted to express his ‘horror and enormous sympathy for everyone who is affected by this.’
Fears from residents in aftermath of assault
Residents have told how they were frightened for their safety after hearing about the attack.
Some people said they could not believe that such a horrific crime could take place in such a quiet, peaceful area.
One Emsworth resident, near the Horndean Road junction, said: ‘Why would anyone attack children?
‘I’m frightened to go out in my front garden now.
‘I would not think there’s people round here like that.’
A pensioner, whose children used to use the shortcut to get to Warblington School, said: ‘It’s just absolutely horrific that it could happen.
‘This is a one-off. It’s not something that happens round here. It’s distressing.’
A shocked mum said the attack was impossible to understand. She said: ‘I’m completely shocked.
‘You don’t expect it at all.
‘Young people should feel safe on the streets.’
A woman who lives in Southleigh Road described the scene as emergency services moved in.
She said: ‘I heard lots of noise and a helicopter hovering overhead.
‘There were police cars all over the place.
‘At first I thought it was an ordinary traffic accident, but this is horrific.’
Police cars were blockading the stretch between Eastleigh Road and Horndean Road last night and police officers were diverting cars, walkers and cyclists.