Bullets at a booth at the National Rifle Association's annual meeting in Houston, Texas (Reuters)

A man has been arrested in Northfields, near Leicester, on suspicion of giving an eight-year-old boy a machine gun. The incident took place in the playground of the Merrydale Infants School. Armed officers arrested the 57-year-old man and discovered a cache of imitation firearms at his home.

The Mail Online reports parents of the children concerned did not at first believe their sons and daughters when they told them a man came to their playground with a gun.

It was only when a mother of one of the children saw a photograph of someone standing with a gun that the authorities were alerted. The photograph was taken at 6pm the previous day.

"I felt so shocked and worried but also guilty because my eight-year-old daughter had been at the playground when it happened and told me there had been a man with a gun," she said, after calling the police.

"She said he had even given it to a boy to hold. I am ashamed to say I didn't really pay any attention to her, but after I saw the photo I called the police. No eight-year-old girl should be exposed to this. It's awful," the 26-year-old mother-of-three added.

"My son told me he had seen a man with a big gun with bullets in, but I thought he was making it up. Then I saw the photograph. All the parents around here are scared. None of us want to let our children out," another parent confessed.

The school has now sent letters to all parents, informing them of the incident.

"Police received a call at 9.10am on Tuesday from a member of the public who reported that a man had been seen in the area of Longleat Close in Leicester the previous day carrying what was believed to be a firearm." a Leicestershire Police spokeswoman said.

"Following police inquiries, armed response officers stopped a man in the area of Brighton Road, who was arrested in connection with the incident. A number of imitation firearms were recovered by officers nearby," she added.