Girl foils ‘abductor’

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HASTINGS police are searching for a man aged in his late 30s who is alleged to have grabbed an 11-year-old girl by the arm as she was walking to school.

The girl told police she was in William St at about 8.10am on Monday when approached by the man who asked her to go with him.

The girl says that after refusing him she was grabbed by the arm but managed to break free and run to the Kmart shopping centre.

The girl reported the incident to principal Richard Mucha when she later arrived at St Mary’s Primary School.

Senior Sergeant Steve Burt, of Hastings police, said the girl described the man as being Caucasian, aged in his late 30s, slim build, 170cm tall and wearing a black baseball cap, black pants and a black leather jacket over a blue top. She said he wore spectacles.

Senior Sgt Burt said there was “no indication” the alleged incident was linked to abduction attempts reported recently at Tootgarook and Pakenham.

In a letter sent on Monday afternoon to the parents and carers of the school’s 138 pupils Mr Mucha told them of the incident, describing how the man had chased the girl “for some distance before stopping and leaving the area”.

Mr Mucha alerted Catholic and state education authorities, other schools, kindergartens and child care centres as well as “talking about the facts” to the more senior pupils and cautioning younger ones “more generally about walking, riding, skating in a safe way before and after school and on weekends”.

“The main safety tips are for children to still get to school by riding, walking etc, but to ensure they are in groups or at least pairs,” Mr Mucha said in his letter to parents.

“Students should move to and from school on the town’s Connect Hastings route.”

Mr Mucha told The News that child­ren should not be dropped off at the school until after 8.25am unless they were booked into the out of school hours care program.

“There is no one on yard duty until after 8.25 and unless they are booked in to child care, we have no record of their presence in the school grounds,” he said.

Mr Mucha said some parents were reluctant to use the out of school child care program because of the charge “but there are benefits available to help them pay”.

“We want the children to travel to school in groups because they are much less likely to be a target,” he said.

Anyone who can assist police can call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or Hastings police on 5979 7800.

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