The wife of a man charged with abducting and sexually assaulting a young girl at an Australian Kmart says the ordeal has heaped immense stress on her and her family.
On Saturday a 7-year-old girl was shopping with her mother at Westfield North Lakes, north of Brisbane, when she was allegedly taken by 26-year-old Sterling Marvyn Free for more than an hour.
It's alleged Free had spoken to the girl before managing to coax her away from her mother and out of the shopping centre.
The father-of-two allegedly then drove the girl to a nearby bush area at Pumicestone Passage and sexually assaulted her.
Police were called by the mother and began investigating, viewing CCTV of the shopping centre and identifying the man who they later confirmed was a 26-year-old from Morayfield.
The child was taken for medical treatment.
Following Free's arrest, the accused's wife has broken her silence saying she was still in shock by his alleged attack.
"It's been tough on me and my family," Angie Hodgson told Daily Mail Australia.
"We've had media at our door and I don't know what else to say."
Senior police sources told 9 News that Free's phone and computer has been seized.
According to employees, the alleged attack began in one of the toy aisles.
"You could hear the mother yelling out for her daughter, but kids lose their parents all the time – you never imagine something like this will happen," one employee told media.
Free has since been charged with taking a child for immoral purposes, one count of deprivation of liberty and another count of indecent treatment of a child under 12.
Detective Superintendent Fleming said he was proud of the dedication and hard work of police in apprehending this person and putting him before the court.
"My thanks also extend to Westfield North Lakes staff for their co-operation and support to police in this investigation," he said.
"Crimes in circumstances such as this are not common, but it is a timely reminder that a very small number of people could take advantage of an opportunity to harm a child.
"Children should be free to enjoy themselves, but it is important that we maintain appropriate vigilance of them and our surrounds."