Why is the 'killer clown' craze sweeping across Britain?

The clown craze began in America. Credit: PA

The "killer clown" craze sweeping across Britain has seen children being chased and clowns jumping out on people, in some instances armed with knives.

The frequency of the incidents does not appear to be abating with Thames Valley Police revealing that they had been called to 14 incidents where people had been frightened or intimidated by clowns in just 24 hours on Sunday.

The clown craze - people dressing up in order to intimidate others - is thought to have started in the US, apparently influenced by Stephen King's horror story, It.

The author has tweeted asking people to stop the "hysteria".

The craze has spread worldwide, with so-called "killer clowns" spotted as far away as Australia and New Zealand.

As the trend continues across the UK police have issued warnings, saying that those dressing up as clowns may be committing public order offences.

Police also warned that attending and investigating the incidents uses police resources, as well as stopping them from attending other incidents.

After Gloucestershire Police received numerous reports of clowns with knives scaring people, a spokesperson said: "Clearly this has scared people and caused real distress.

"We have attended these incidents as grade 1 emergencies and that limits our ability to attend to other incidents...

"These are stupid acts that are really frightening people and wasting our time.

"Please don't be tempted to do it. Think of the consequences."

Some forces have stepped up high-visibility patrols in order to allay people's fears.

A number of people have been arrested in connection with the craze, and children as young as 13 have received warnings from the police.

Sightings of "killer clowns" across the UK include:

Clowns have been spotted across the UK. Credit: PA