Police are investigating reports of child exorcisms taking place behind a leisure centre in Croydon, south London.

Officers were alerted to the alleged 'exorcisms' by alarmed residents who reported seeing groups of people surrounding a toddler chanting: "Get the demon out!"

The group also talked about "releasing the spirit" during the 20-minute ceremonies, which take place between 4am to 6am.

Describing the scene, witnesses reported that the child is told to "stand still" in the centre of a circle whilst the group chant. At the end of the ceremony the adults place the child in a car seat and drive off.

Local resident Amy Davies, 34, who lives near the leisure centre, said: "Whatever is going on it's a bit weird. The child must be confused and it can't be good for them to be in this situation.

Another local, who did not want to be identified, described witnessing the disturbing scenes.

"The child is put in the circle as the adults start chanting about demons and spirits. I didn't get too close as it's all a bit odd, but I thought I should phone the police and let them know about it just in case this kid was in danger."

Other residents are said to have contacted the police after being woken up by the chanting in the early hours of the morning on several occasions.

"'It's not quiet chanting, it's loud enough to wake me up and I'm at least 200 feet away from where they hold these things."

Police have not yet been able to establish whether it is the same child being subjected to the ordeal.

The ceremonies have taken place several times in the past month, with the latest being held yesterday outside the leisure centre, when police attended.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police confirmed that officers had spoken the group on Thursday, but added that there were no allegations of criminal behaviour.

"We received a call about this issue earlier in the month, although no allegations of crime have been made. Officers have made local enquiries but have not identified any of the individuals involved at this time.

"We are continuing with our enquiries to try and establish the identity of the child allegedly involved to ensure that there is no risk to their welfare."'

A spokesman for Croydon Council said: "When we became aware of this issue we quickly referred it to the police. We've also discussed the situation with local residents to gain as much information as possible. If anyone witnesses any further gatherings they should contact the police directly."