Police warn about vigilante hysteria
An Invercargill man says he was the victim of a vigilante-style attack because he drives a white van and has grey hair - similar to the man allegedly behind two attempted child abductions.
Ray Murray, the day manager at a gardening programme for people with mental health issues, was verbally abused while driving two clients past Fernworth Primary in Pomona St in his white Toyota minibus with tinted windows.
"I was going slowly, around 40kmh, like everybody begs you to do. I'm usually careful (driving near a school). You never know what kids are going to do next," Mr Murray said.
A woman was standing in the middle of the road, and as he drove past, she shouted at him to "F... off", he said.
Mr Murray pulled over and stopped to find out what she wanted. The woman came up to the window and asked if he had children at the school.
He said no, and the woman verbally abused him again before taking down his number, he said.
When he drove off, she followed him in her car, did a U-turn and drove past him again, shouting abuse.
He reported the incident to police. Mr Murray said he was disturbed by the attitude the woman displayed.
"Lots of people have grey-white hair and a white van . . . she should not be doing what she did."
He said if he had been less even-tempered he might have "clocked" the woman.
He said other people she accused might be less understanding.
He was also concerned the woman might have followed him and seen where he and his vulnerable clients lived.
"I certainly don't want a brick going through their window because their manager has grey hair and drives a white van," he said.
"I feel a bit gutted actually, being singled out like that.
"If it's happening to other people I certainly hope police will be following it up." The police have urged people to be observant and report suspicious white vans being driven by elderly men but they have warned against hysteria and panic.
But speculation is rife in the city after two incidents in the Windsor area over the past month in which a man with silver-grey hair tried to get girls into the back of a white van with tinted windows.
The girls, both aged 17, were able to evade the man, described as being in his 50s or 60s.
Acting Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Bowman said Mr Murray's report was concerning.
Anyone who acted as a vigilante was risking arrest themselves, he said.
"We are certainly not encouraging that whatsoever. Ninety-nine point nine per cent of vans we have no issues with, it's just that one van in question."
Investigations were continuing.
Fernworth School principal Anne Walker said she would tell the school community this kind of behaviour was inappropriate.
The school posted a message on its Facebook page yesterday saying fears were understandable but parents should not assume anyone driving a white van was the man police were looking for.
The Southland Times