Police are scouring CCTV footage in an effort to identify a man who snatched a 5-year-old girl from a Palmerston North street.
The young girl was taken as she walked to Te Kura o Takaro primary school on Shamrock St with her two sisters about 8.30am on Friday. About two hours later she was dumped outside a house on Hind Place.
Officers investigating the abduction yesterday appealed for sightings of a late model white Nissan Maxima. They described the incident as "every family's worst nightmare".
Shortly before making the public appeal, officers viewed footage taken from four CCTV cameras at a Shamrock St home.
Resident Sandy Carlin later revealed to the Herald on Sunday the footage showed a white car, which has a spoiler, driving past the house towards town as she and her daughter were leaving home on Friday.
The car then drives back in the opposite direction, where it headed after the snatch.
Kacie Carlin was returning home after dropping Sandy off at work and probably passed the suspect vehicle without realising.
She heard three girls scream but didn't realise anything was wrong until police cars filled Shamrock St.
Inspector Sarah Stewart, Manawatu police area controller, urged anyone with information to come forward, saying: "Quite often, the smallest thing could help solve a case, so while you may have dismissed a similar looking vehicle as nothing, police still want to hear from you.
"This type of incident, while rare here in New Zealand, is every family's worst nightmare ... No family should ever have to feel this way." As the hunt continued, residents yesterday revealed more of the panic which occurred after the snatching.
When Yvonne Moore heard screams out the front of her Shamrock St house, she raced outside in time to see the flash of a white car drive away, leaving two distraught little girls.
Neighbours were already phoning the police.
"The girls [the sisters] were crying and panicking so I took them home," Moore said.
"They were upset but they calmed down as we were walking along.
"They did all the right things - the screaming brought everyone out to help them."