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An 11-year-old boy has been abducted and sexually assaulted in a horrific four-hour ordeal in West Auckland. Waitemata Police say the boy got off a train at Ranui Station around 3.55pm yesterday and started walking to his 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. READ MORE: Criminologist says child abduction rare Ranui abduction: How to keep your kids safe Locals could hold key to finding sex offender

The man then drove the boy back to Ranui and let him go. Police say the schoolboy arrived home four hours later, at 8pm. He was now recovering at home with his family. "Police and Victim Support are doing everything we can to support them," said Detective Senior Sergeant Jason McIntosh. "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 were 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. 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 to police, who were now poring over the 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." 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. 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.

Timely reminder about personal safety

Henderson Intermediate principal Wendy Esera said many schools in West Auckland would be reinforcing a stranger danger message to pupils in the wake of the horrific attack. She would be addressing pupils at 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." Detective Senior Sergeant 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 reported him missing. There were still scant details about the man who snatched the boy. Police hoped to get a fuller description once they interviewed the youngster.It was also unclear where the attack took place.

'Frightening' news

A Ranui Station Rd resident, who asked not to be named, said it was a busy road but residents kept to themselves. She believed most would have been at work yesterday when the boy was abducted. "That's sad. That's very sad. There's a lot of riff raff at the station: young people drinking and tagging and that sort of thing. Police are always there. But I haven't heard of anything like this." She said there was several families with children living on the road. Ranui Primary School is on Ranui Station Rd. Emma Allerby, who lives nearby, said it was "frightening" hearing a child had been abducted in her neighbourhood. "It's absolutely horrible. To have it happen in the area I live in... that's shocking for me." Allerby said she felt sorry for the boy. "Having been through that, it hits me a bit harder." She was at work yesterday when the boy was abducted and only found out about it when she read the news. She hadn't heard anything about it from her neighbours or police. No police can be seen in the area this morning. Ranui is a semi-rural western suburb bordering the Waitakere Ranges. McIntosh asked anyone with information to contact him on 021 191 2659. Information could also be given anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.