Sisters of girl in Palmerston North abduction 'screamed street down' for help
Two sisters who witnessed the alleged abduction of their younger sister said they were screaming as loud as they could for help and feared she wouldn't come back.
Rehia Skipper, 8 and Finesse Te Kira-Skipper, 7 were walking to their Palmerston North school with 5-year-old Shekinah Relies-Skipper when she was pulled into a white vehicle.
Rehia said when the car pulled over a man got out and grabbed Shekinah.
"We have seen him before... at the park.
"He just walked around me and grabbed her and chucked her in the car.
"We were screaming the whole street down at Shamrock, we were screaming 'help, help' as loud as we could."
Finesse said they saw Shekinah bang her head on the gear-stick when the man threw her in. They tried to fight back but said the whole thing happened so fast.
"We were trying to kick him to get him to go."
When she saw the car driving off Rehia said she felt helpless.
"I thought she wouldn't come back. We were crying... crying our eyes out."
Finesse said she no longer felt safe.
"I don't feel safe when I walk to school now, I probably will think it's him in the car."
Coming from a family of seven sisters and five brothers there would be a lot of hugs waiting for Shekinah when she arrived home.
"I'm going to hug her for a long, long, long time," Finesse said.
Rehia described the man as having green eyes. A cousin at the house, Elexis Ratu, said the girls had told her he was wearing blue jeans with holes in the knees and a dress top with stripes. They also said he had grey hair with black stripes in it and facial hair.
Ratu, said she knew something was wrong when the girls came running back to the house.
"They don't come back running like that from school, they were just yelling out."
She said as soon as they found out what happened they were in shock.
"Our hearts were racing... and emotions running high."
While the police were looking for Shekinah, Ratu said she felt helpless.
"Literally helpless, because we weren't doing anything. We wanted to just go out there and look for her."
When they discovered she had been found, Ratu said they felt relief.
"That was the main thing, that we had our child back."
However, even though she felt that relief, she also felt anger.
"I just feel really angry that the guy has gone and done that to us. But there is a relief [she] is found and a big [weight] off our shoulders.
"She's still with us now."
MANHUNT UNDER WAY
Police are still looking for the person who snatched Shekinah.
Police Manawatu Area Commander Sarah Stewart said more than 30 officers had been working on the case since the 5-year-old was taken from Shamrock St in the suburb of Takaro at about 8.30am.
"We're doing a wide-ranging investigation," Stewart said.
There had been some focus on the Horowhenua town of Shannon, however they had diverted their focus back to Shamrock Street and Hind Pl, where the girl was dropped off after being found about 11am.
Police did not have any further information about the man, but have appealed for help from the public saying they were "the absolute key" to finding both him and the white sedan involved.
"We ask that you call us as soon as you can, even if you don't think it's important. Let us know, let us decide that.
"It would be really unusual for a 5-year-old child to be dropped off on the side of the road, by themselves. Someone must have seen Shekinah being dropped off."
Stewart said the family had been "incredible" and were continuing to help police with the investigation.
"You can imagine this incredibly traumatic and upsetting thing for everyone involved."
GREAT-GRANDAD DESCRIBES FINDING GIRL
When Bill Gilliland, 91, found Shekinah he initially thought she was just lost.
"I had just turned into Hind Place and I could see she was really upset and didn't know a thing where she was and I sort of took over from there," he told the New Zealand Herald.
Gilliland drove around the neighbourhood, hoping she would recognise a familiar house, in case she was staying locally.
When she couldn't, he went to neighbour Mary Leask's house, who then called the police.
He told The Herald he was happy to have been able to help. "I just did something that you've got to do."
Hind Pl resident Mary Leask said Shekinah was "a bit shaken" at first but she "settled down good".
"She's a cheeky little thing, she's lovely."
Takaro School principal Helena Baker said they were relieved the young pupil had been found safe and well.
Baker said the school remained open the entire time. "Our main concern is always for our tamariki."
Students have been sent home with a newsletter informing parents and caregivers of what's happened. Parents outside the school could be heard saying it was "scary" and "terrible".
"THEY WERE SO UPSET"
Earlier, a Shamrock St resident, who did not wish to be named, said her son had heard the young girls screaming and ran outside to see what the commotion was about.
"He shot out and saw the car going north and the girls were banging on the back window trying to get her out."
She said the three young girls were sisters walked by her house on a regular basis.
"They're very chatty children."
Her son was shaken by the incident and she said they looked after the other two children while waiting for emergency services to arrive.
"He brought them in here because they were so upset."
The incident was one she thought would scar them.
"They will never get over it, they will carry that."
Palmerston North mayor Grant Smith said he knew the Skipper family, although not Shekinah's immediate family, and was shocked when his wife called him to share the news.
He said he would contact the family, a large family in the Manawatu, and "make sure that things are ok".
He said the apparent abduction was not part of an overall crime problem in the city and was an isolated incident.
"Definitely not. I'm just pleased the young girl's safe and reunited with her family. And police are trying to sort out what happened."
The incident would have been harrowing for those involved, he said, "but at least the outcome is positive".
Catherine Jeffries, who lives on Shamrock St was lying in bed when she heard a commotion outside.
"I heard an awful loud siren going up the street chasing a car."
In Hind Place, one neighbour said she saw police on the street for about an hour. She said officers had been talking to residents in two properties in the street, a quiet cul-de-sac in Hokowhitu.
There are a number of elderly residents who live in the street.
A neighbour said she saw two residents, an elderly couple, leaving with what looked like a police officer around midday.