Police investigating an approach on a schoolgirl in Palmerston North yesterday morning are now able to confirm that the girl was abducted.
An appeal was made yesterday to parents in the area to remain calm and vigilant after the 9-year-old girl was approached as she walked to school along Shamrock Street around 8.30am yesterday (Tuesday, 28 June).
Having spoken to the girl at length Police are able to confirm that she was coerced into a car by a man around 8.30am. He drove her to the outskirts of Palmerston North and then back into the City with the journey taking approximately 25 minutes.
During that time there was no physical contact between the man and the girl, but he spoke to her inappropriately. She became extremely distressed throughout the journey and he eventually dropped her back at Shamrock Street close to the intersection of Pioneer Highway at approximately 8.55am. The girl went straight to school and reported the incident to staff.
She is currently being cared for by a very supportive family who have also been referred to the Victim Support Service.
Detective Sergeant Gary Milligan said: "Although no physical harm came to the girl we have serious concerns about the motivations of this man. We are still urging for parents to remain calm, but vigilance among parents, children and the wider public is essential. We would encourage children to walk to school in pairs or groups and to report to teachers and parents any suspicious people or approaches. We would also ask parents to take the opportunity to reiterate stranger danger to their children.
"We have increased police attention on school areas and are working closely with the school staff to provide as much reassurance and awareness as possible."
To enable Police to carry out further enquiries without jeopardising the investigation, specific details of the route the driver took and the conversation between the man and the girl are not being disclosed at this stage.
The man is described as Caucasian, in his mid 20s to early 30s with short brown or black hair. The vehicle was a grey four-door older style vehicle.
Any link between this incident and an approach on a 10-year-old girl in the West End area of the city on 22 June is yet to be established. Both incidents are being investigated but whilst the offender description is similar the vehicle descriptions are distinctly different.
Police want to hear from anyone saw a vehicle or person fitting the descriptions acting suspiciously in the Shamrock Street or the vicinity between 8.25am and 9am yesterday morning.
Anyone with information relevant to this investigation is asked to contact Detective Sergeant Gary Milligan at Palmerston North Police on 06 351 3600. Alternatively information can be provided anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.