Parents are worried for the safety of their children at a Timaru primary school after a 9-year old pupil was allegedly abducted while walking home.
The boy was found bloodied and distressed by a river 15km from Oceanview Heights school on Thursday afternoon.
The boy, who police said looked more like a 6- or 7-year old, has been traumatised by whatever has happened to him and has yet been able to speak to police.
But police are hopeful they can interview the child this afternoon and piece together how he came to be dumped 15km from home, with facial injuries, and a blood-covered school uniform.
The school is taking extra safety precautions to make sure their kids get home safely.
When school finished early today, extra teachers were at the gates for heightened security and were talking to anxious parents.
A notice will be issued to all parents tomorrow, said Oceanview Heights principal Jenny Langley.
"We're very concerned for our boy and we hope he's back at school soon," she said.
The school's board of trustees chairwoman Phillipa Watson was outside school talking to worried mums and dads.
Donna Wickenden, 39, has two daughters at the school, located in the northwest of the town by Marchwiel Park.
She spoke of her shock at hearing of the suspected abduction.
And today when school finished at midday for an unrelated board of trustees meeting to take place, she made sure she arrived early.
Ms Wickenden had just started letting her 5-year old girl walk home.
"We won't be doing that any more," she told APNZ today.
"I've got a 13-year old too and I'm even worried about her.
"Like everybody else I want to find out more about what has happened, but until then I'll worry."
Another parent, who did not wish to be named, added: "You can't take any chances. It's terrifying to think it could happen right outside a school."
The school has been helping with the investigation, and have been rallying behind the popular pupil.
Children had been writing letters to the boy and hoped to deliver them to him tomorrow.
Ms Langley said it was a "close knit" school and everyone was very worried about the boy.
The school also runs a Keeping Ourselves Safe programme in conjunction with local police and this morning went over its safety principles with pupils.
"It's very worrying and we just want the case solved as soon as possible," Ms Langley said.
Graham Begg, a local resident who lives near the school, said while it was difficult to know who was picking up whose kids outside school, he said he would now be on the lookout for anything unusual.
The grocery store manager said all of his shoppers were talking about it.
"It's horrendous," he said.
"There's been more police around here today and I guess they'll know more when the little boy talks.
"But someone must know something. Timaru is a small town."
Police cars were seen patrolling the surrounding streets today and inquiries were continuing.
Officers interviewed teachers and family members over the weekend to try and get an idea of the boy's movements and work out what happened to him.
The boy, described as having a dark complexion, of slim build, about 30kg with dark hair, was last seen at 3.15pm on the corner of Luxmoore Rd and Selwyn St.
On Thursday he was wearing dark blue polarfleece, dark blue shorts, a teal polo shirt and multicoloured backpack.
He was found at the bridge - a 15 minute drive through winding country roads - around 45 minutes later.
Police refused to disclose the extent of the boy's injuries, or say whether a sexual element was involved.
But they said the boy had "certainly suffered some trauma"
His condition was improving and he remained at Timaru Hospital today.
Mid-South Canterbury area commander Inspector Dave Gaskin said he was "hopeful" the boy would shed some light on the incident when interviewed this afternoon.
He said the boy normally walked home and appealed for witnesses who may have seen him outside school last Thursday, or were in the Holmes Station Bridge area between 3pm and 4.30pm on that day.
- APNZBy Kurt Bayer @KurtBayerAPNZ Email Kurt