Tess Nichol is an NZME. News Service reporter.

Ranui child abduction: Hunt for a predator

A police appeal for public help after a child was abducted and sexually assaulted in Ranui yesterday is attracting good information, police say.

Police have said the investigation was being treated as a priority and CIB detectives, as well as detectives from the Child Protection Team, are working on the case.

The child sex offender register team is looking into known offenders.

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Police have received a number of calls from the public, but say it's too early to comment on any information received.

The boy was abducted from Ranui Station Rd after getting off a train at Ranui Station around 3.55pm yesterday.

He started walking home along Ranui Station Rd when he was abducted by a man in a grey van.

Police say the man asked the boy for directions before driving him to an unknown location and sexually assaulting him.

"It's too early to say" how the boy ended up in the van, police added.

"He left the train station, went onto Ranui Station Rd and at some point there he's been abducted," they said.

Rare type of attack

"These types of stranger attacks are rare in New Zealand."

The man then drove the boy back to Ranui and let him go.

Police say the schoolboy arrived home four hours after he had been abducted, at 8pm.

He was now recovering with his family at home.

Police and Victim Support are doing everything we can to support them" said detective senior sergeant Jason McIntosh.

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"The victim has undergone a medical examination and specialist child interviewers are expected to speak with him today.

McIntosh said after that they hoped to have more details about the circumstances and a description of the person police are seeking.

"This is a very sensitive process though and at this stage we have limited information about the offender - he has been described as driving a grey van, was by himself, and had stopped the boy to ask for directions" said McIntosh.

"We are treating this as a priority investigation and CIB Detectives, as well as Detectives from the Child Protection Team, are working on this investigation.

Police said extra patrols were now in the area and appealed urgently for information about the grey van.

They were now poring over security camera footage to track down the man.

"We are making a range of enquiries and this includes the gathering and review of CCTV footage in that area" said McIntosh.

"I know that this will be alarming to the West Auckland community and I'd like to reassure people that we will have extra patrols in the area over the next few days.

"We do need to hear from anyone who has information about that grey van though," he said.

McIntosh asked anyone with information to contact him on 021 191 2659.

Information could also be given anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

An alert would be issued to all schools in the area advising pupils to be vigilant.

McIntosh said he would be contacting the Ministry of Education to notify all principals in the area to warn youngsters to be careful.

In response to question about why some schools didn't know this morning, they said: "We've gone through the Ministry of Education who have been contacted and have been sending information out to schools in the Waitemata area."

Train-station CCTV footage

McIntosh said a number of school children would be interviewed in the hunt for the attacker.

"There were other children around at the time," he said.

"From CCTV footage at the train station we see that a group of school children got off the train at Ranui before the abduction took place. "

He said when the boy failed to arrive home after school his concerned family contacted police and he was reported as a missing person.

There were still scant details about the man who snatched the boy.

Police hoped to get a fuller description once they interviewed the youngster.

​Police are confident the man is not known to the child.

It was also unclear where the attack took place.

Ranui is a semi-rural western suburb bordering the Waitakere Ranges.

An Auckland Transport spokesman said CCTV footage of the boy and other school children getting off the train at Ranui Station yesterday afternoon had been handed over to police.

At 3.30pm today two police officers were at Ranui Station asking locals whether they had been at the station at the same time yesterday.

Detective sergeant Murray Free said they were also seeing what kinds of cars were parked in the area this afternoon.

Other than for one woman who met her daughter off the train, there were no parents around.

Stranger-danger message

Henderson Intermediate principal Wendy Esera said many schools in west Auckland would today be reinforcing a stranger-danger message to pupils in the wake of the horrific attack.

She would be addressing pupils at Friday assembly telling them the importance of going straight home and keeping together.

"In our assembly this afternoon I'm going to talk to our children and use this as an opportunity, as most schools will, to reinforce the stranger-danger message and get yourself home quickly."

Principals in the area had been in contact with each other about the appalling attack.

With school holidays looming and roughly 100,000 New Zealand children finishing class Esera said it was a timely reminder about personal safety.

She said the circumstances surrounding the abduction were horrific.

"Here is a child helping a person who is asking for directions. That could have been any of our children," she said.

Esera said schools regularly drove home health and safety messages to pupils and staying clear of people they didn't know.

"There wouldn't be a school in the country that wouldn't give that message."

At least one school, Titirangi Primary, has emailed parents advising them about the attack and encouraging everyone to be on their guard.

Principal Alan Jackson has asked all parents to talk to their children over the weekend and remind them about rules for keeping safe, particularly those who use buses to and from school.

The school would also be reminding pupils of key safety messages before the end of the school day.

He said while they would not be sharing details of yesterday's incident they would focus on the safety messages in an age-appropriate way that did not cause any undue worry or alarm for the children.

He asked parents if they had any concerns of suspicious behaviour in the area it was important to call police and keep the school informed.

Worried parents

One mum, Neri Sipili has four kids at Ranui Primary School.

The first she heard of the incident was when she was spoken to by the Herald.

Sipili said it was worrying to hear of it happening so close to where she lived and her kids went to school.

It was the first time she'd heard of anything "dodgy" happening in the area.

However, Sipili said even though her eldest was 12 she always made sure to drop them off and pick them up from school.

"That's why I'm always with them."

The mum of a young six-year-old boy at the local primary school said she had noticed a few more police than usual in the area in the last few days.

However, the Herald speaking to her was the first she'd heard of the abduction.

"I wish the school would say something," she said. "Even if they send out a note."

It was the first time she'd heard of a child being taken by a stranger in the area.

Another resident the Herald spoke to in the area near the school said there was often "strange people" around - but it was the first time something like this had happened.

At around two this afternoon the area near the school was fairly quiet and there was no notable police presence.

Later, as school finished, a police car with two police officers was parked on Ranui Station Rd, just down the road from the primary school.

Several parents were picking up their children.

A couple of young mums said they'd only heard of the news from another media outlet.

While they were a little worried, they said they always took their kids to and from school or ensured they walked home in a big group of other children.

A grandmother of two young girls, 7 and 8, who'd normally walk home from the school said news of what had happened to the 11-year-old had prompted her to come and pick them up.

She said the first she'd heard of the news was on Facebook last night.

She believed the boy wasn't a pupil at Ranui Primary School and hadn't met him, or his family before.

The grandmother said she hadn't been spoken to by police or the school yet.

Another mother whose 7-year-old and 10-year-old sons were at Ranui Primary School said she hadn't heard anything about the abduction. She said she it was "scary" hearing about it and that she would be extra vigilant with them over the weekend.

A mum of three young kids, 5, 6 and 8, said her family had been bombarding her with texts about the news today to make sure she knew.

"That's why I'm here early," she said.

"I'm going into talk to the school office now."

Another mum, Vaita Timu, said it was an eye-opener for her, as normally her four girls, the oldest 11, walked home together while she was at work.

"We were just talking to them about being aware, of strangers...then this happened yesterday and it really, really scared me.

"I'm not going to let them walk home alone now."

She wasn't even sure if she'd let her oldest catch the train to Intermediate school in the New Year on her own as initially planned.

They'd lived in the area for seven years and it was the first she'd heard of something like this happening.

"It's really scary."

The dad of a young five-year-old girl at the primary school said "times have changed".

He wasn't convinced the school or police could do much to change it, as it was "just Auckland".

While it was the first time he'd heard of something happening to a child in the suburb, he wasn't surprised.

He urged parents to keep their kids safe.

"It's up to the parents to educate their kids and pick them up."

An attendant at Cafe Korero at the end of Ranui Station Rd said a couple of patrons had talked about the incident today. "They were parents. They were pretty concerned about what happened."

Offers of help for the boy have come from as far away as Dunedin.

Police will patrol the area over the next few weeks. They advise parents to talk to their children about getting home safely and what to do if they are approached by a stranger.

In the wake of the ghastly attack, the Ministry of Education Ministry has sent an alert to every school and preschool in Auckland.

The ministry's acting head of sector enablement and support Susan Howan said police approached the ministry this morning about the abduction and sexual assault of the 11-year-old boy.

"We have notified early childhood education centres, schools and kura in Auckland of the incident and requested them to notify police urgently if they have any concerns."

Police went public about the abduction and sexual assault of an 11-year-old boy in West Auckland in the hopes locals can help to catch the offender, a veteran officer says.

Graham Bell: Did you see anything?

Retired cop and former Police Ten 7 presenter Graham Bell said members of the public often held information needed to solve a case.

"That will be the thrust of making the case public, to get people to ring in saying whether they'd seen or heard anything."

Sometimes people can see or hear something they don't realise is important, but they should call police even if they don't think it's relevant, Bell said.

Bell said police would door-knock residents in Ranui, a semi-rural western suburb bordering the Waitakere Ranges.

"In areas like that there's a better chance that someone will remember seeing something because anything unusual like that is more noticeable in a less populated area."

Bell said police had the ability to search for grey vans registered in the area by make and model.

"But really it's more important that people who may have seen the vehicle, may have seen some peculiarity about it, an identifying aspect of it that will get them on their way."

Bell said police would be careful not to cause unnecessary panic or fear this would happen again.

For a child to be abducted was very uncommon and most kids got home safe on their way home from school, he said.

Police have asked anyone with information to phone 021 191 2659.

Information could also be given anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

- NZ Herald

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