School assembly warns students of attempted abduction

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McClintock St resident Melanie Aitcheson is disappointed a 10-year-old boy was nearly abducted and has vowed to be vigilant of cars and people in the area.
McClintock St resident Melanie Aitcheson is disappointed a 10-year-old boy was nearly abducted and has vowed to be vigilant of cars and people in the area.

The mother of a 10-year-old boy who a man tried to force into the boot of a car after school was too distraught to talk about the ordeal, saying she was still very protective of her children.

Residents along McClintock St in Whau Valley where the attempted abduction happened about 3pm on Tuesday as the boy was walking home are alarmed at the incident as it was a usually quiet street.

Residents spoken to by the Northern Advocate yesterday said they would be upping their surveillance of the street in case the man came back.

Whangarei Police are appealing for information from people who may have seen the man allegedly attempting to force the Whau Valley Primary School student into his car on McClintock St as the boy and two other school children were walking home.

Students at Whau Valley School were told of the incident yesterday during a school assembly and safety messages were reiterated.

Principal Robert Clarke said the three students involved had been kept home from school yesterday so they could talk through what had happened with their parents and the police.

During the assembly prior to being released for the day students were reminded to go straight home, walk with friends or siblings and not to talk to strangers. A police constable also spoke to the students and reinforced the messages while a newsletter about the incident was to be sent home today.

Detective Sergeant Dave Hamilton said the driver of a silver, older-model four door sedan stopped in the middle of the road adjacent to the three children on McClintock St.

"The male driver got out of the vehicle, opened the boot, grabbed the 10-year-old by his backpack and tried to force him into the boot of the car. As this was happening the boy managed to escape and the children ran away from the offender and hid in bushes," Mr Hamilton said.

"They later began to walk home but saw a silver car further down the street, so they ran back and hid in bushes again. They eventually returned home around 4pm."

"This was a busy time of day and there would have been a lot of after-school traffic in that area, so we're hoping someone may have witnessed this happen or saw a car or person matching the description. We're keen to hear from anyone who may have information that can help our investigation," Mr Hamilton said.

Police would be monitoring the area as they continued to investigate, he said. The wanted driver is described as European, with black/brown curly shoulder length hair, wearing a black hoodie, black jeans, and had tattoos on both forearms.

The boy's mother was still visibly upset yesterday and declined to comment when approached and asked for privacy, saying only that she was still very protective of her children.

Neighbour Melanie Aitcheson said she did not witness anything but saw a police car outside her house after school on Tuesday with a woman and a boy inside the vehicle.

"I generally have the curtains open and watch out for kids walking up and down the road but I'll make sure to keep an eye on them more now that this has happened," she said.

"I am really sad for that little boy. It's not a good thing to happen to a boy that age or to anyone for that matter."

The retired caregiver moved to Whangarei from Auckland about a year ago and said she was always vigilant about unusual people or cars on McClintock St.

Another resident with children said it seemed people driving by schools and trying to lure children in Whangarei was picking up pace.

A woman with three teenage children said it was shocking the peace of a quiet street had been disturbed.

"My kids go for a run in the mornings but from now on they'll go out together rather than on their own," she said.

Te Tai Tokerau Principals' Association president Pat Newman had emailed up to 70 schools on Tuesday night alerting them to the latest incident. It included descriptions of the car and man thought to be involved.

"Please stress to your children about stranger danger and also keep an eye out for the vehicle," he said.

The incident comes just days after it was revealed in two cases last month children got into a van with a stranger who delivered them to their home.

Whangarei Primary School principal Martin Van Rijswijk said two students were riding scooters down Bank St last month when they were approached by a stranger in a white van who offered to drop them home.

People who have information in relation to the latest incident can contact Detective Sergeant Hamilton on 09 430 4596, or you can provide information anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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