A 22-year-old man has been arrested after a shocking Facebook page was set up lauding Dale Cregan, the man arrested over the deaths of two police officers, as a "legend".
The man, from Netherley, Merseyside, is being questioned over a “tribute” which went online within hours of Pcs Nicola Hughes, 23, and Fiona Bone, 32, dying in a gun and grenade attack in Hattersley, Tameside, on Tuesday morning.
Some people had chosen to use social media in a “very malicious and offensive way”, Greater Manchester Police Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan said.
As tens of thousands of tributes poured in from across the nation for the fallen officers, more than one Facebook page was set up in praise of the suspect held by police.
One was titled Dale Cregan OBE, with internet “trolls” posting messages claiming the suspect was a “hero”.
From looking at the numerous websites containing derogatory and offensive comments, Mr Shewan said he saw “ordinary members of public alarmed and distressed at some of the ridiculous comments that have been put on there”.
It comes as the country's top prosecutor, Keir Starmer QC, said “the time has come for an informed debate about the boundaries of free speech in an age of social media”.
A warrant of further detention was obtained last night for Cregan and will expire at 9am tomorrow.
A 28-year-old man who was arrested yesterday in the Hattersley area on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder also remains in police custody.
The Facebook arrest comes after Greater Manchester Police thanked the public and said officers took heart from the huge outpouring of goodwill and public support.
The force has received 33,500 messages on its online book of condolence, more than 21,000 have been posted on the force's Facebook page and more than 1.3 million people have viewed the tribute to the officers on Facebook.
The force warned of the threat from a long-standing feud between two criminal families in the area and has issued Osman warnings - notices given to people under threat of being murdered or seriously injured - to “a large number of individuals”.
Tuesday's murders of the officers were a “watershed” moment, Mr Shewan said, adding that the force's message was: “Enough is enough. This has to end.”
He added that despite everything the force has done to tackle gun crime, “tragedies still do occur”.
“Tuesday's events simply make us spur on to higher and greater efforts.”
“I think what we've seen on Tuesday has had to appeal to everyone in terms of a watershed moment,” Mr Shewan said.
“I would say the strong message that Greater Manchester Police has been using over the last six weeks, and perhaps even further back, is, 'Enough is enough. This has to end'.
”That's why we've been working with individuals with threats to life notices as part of our investigation.
“That's why we've had such an intensive policing operation in place.
”And that's why Tuesday's events have hit us so hard.“
He went on: ”We were investigating a feud between two criminal families, we continue to do that, and the link between that and Tuesday's events is still part of an ongoing and active investigation.“
Mr Shewan went on: “I think anybody who perhaps wishes to take the opportunity, following such a tragedy, to tastelessly add derogatory comments, to perhaps think that they're poking fun at such a tragic situation, will always cause a great deal of emotion.
”I think police officers - not just police officers, ordinary members of the public - and I looked at some of these websites and saw ordinary members of the public alarmed and really distressed at some of the ridiculous comments that have been put on there.
“I think they would have wanted us to take positive action and that's exactly what ourselves and Merseyside Police have done.”
He added that the “heart-warming” public support in the wake of the murders “has meant a great deal to Greater Manchester Police, to its officers, and to all of the partners and also to the communities”.
“I know the families too have been taking real solace from reading the positive stories and the positive message of support being expressed by ordinary members of the public here in Greater Manchester and across the UK,” he said.
Police officers from across the country have also offered to provide cover so officers from the Greater Manchester force can attend the funerals of the two officers, he added.