Girls terrified by man who stripped

SARAH DUNN
Last updated 10:43 16/08/2014

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Nelson police are investigating an incident at the Railway Reserve in which a man allegedly stripped naked and pursued two young girls on their way home from church.

Twelve-year-old Sytiva Gebbie said the confrontation happened after she and a girlfriend, 15, had attended Annesbrook Church's Epic youth ministry session on Wednesday night. The pair left early at 8pm and walked home past Bunnings, crossing the highway near the roundabout to enter the Railway Reserve.

Sytiva said a man approached them from behind near Saxton Field. Police described him as a European man about 1.75m tall.

Sytiva said her friend greeted the man and he responded in kind, but when the girls looked back, he had removed his shirt.

"She goes, ‘He's taken his top off,' and I was like, ‘Oh well,' and we kept walking."

The next time the girls checked on him, he had removed everything but his shoes: "He was fully naked."

Sytiva said she "bolted" away and lost track of her friend. She said the man pursued them both, prompting her to run through a waist-high creek and on to the road to try to flag down a driver.

"I was completely saturated and I was screaming for help and no-one stopped."

She said two young Asian men came riding along on bicycles and stopped to help the pair, who had reunited by this point.

The police were called using one of the rescuers' cellphones.

Police representative Barbara Dunn said they were looking into a report of a man behaving in an indecent manner on a walkway near Saxton Field on Wednesday evening about 9pm. She said police dogs had tracked the man back to Saxton Field, but did not locate anyone.

Detective Sergeant Ian Langridge said reports of this type of behaviour were particularly disturbing. Police had increased patrols in the area, while the matter was being investigated.

The two girls involved have been referred to Victim Support.

Langridge said it was a timely reminder to all caregivers to ensure arrangements were made for transport for children if out after dark and that children stick to prior arrangements.

"I would encourage anyone who was in the area of Main Rd Stoke and Saxton Field on Wednesday evening and who has any information that may be relevant to the investigation to come forward."

Sytiva said yesterday she was still feeling terrified and the incident had changed how she thought about her town. She refused to walk the streets by herself.

" I don't feel safe in Nelson any more."

Her mother Amanda Gebbie said she was disappointed by negative comments made on Facebook after the girl's grandmother posted an account of the incident.

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"Any child should be able to walk the streets in this town."

Anyone with information should contact detective Sally McBride of the Nelson Bays Child Protection Team on 546 3840. Anonymous information can also be given by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

- The Nelson Mail

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