School tightens security

Investigators hope to talk to boy today

MEGAN MILLER AND ROSA STUDHOLME
Last updated 12:29 19/11/2012
oceanview uniform

UNIFORM: Timaru police have released these images of the Oceanview School uniform a nine-year-old boy was wearing, and a bag he was carrying, when he was allegedly abducted.

oceanview uniform
UNIFORM: Timaru police have released these images of the Oceanview School uniform a nine-year-old boy was wearing, and a bag he was carrying, when he was allegedly abducted.
A specialist search team from Christchurch was searching the banks of  the Pareora River at Holme Station Bridge on Saturday.
ROSA STUDHOLME/Fairfax NZ
SITE SEARCH: A specialist search team from Christchurch was searching the banks of the Pareora River at Holme Station Bridge on Saturday.

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The Timaru school at the centre of a suspected abduction is stepping up its security in the wake of the incident.

A nine-year-old boy was discovered injured and in a distressed state at Holme Station Bridge on Thursday afternoon.

Oceanview Heights School principal Jenny Langley said the school was advising parents to pick up their children or make sure they were not alone when they leave school.

There were extra teachers on gate duty "just to make sure we keep our parents informed", she said.

The school was "very concerned" for the boy. It was being keenly felt in the community.

"This sort of event ... hits the community very hard. Because we are a small school everybody knows each other."

The school was supporting the family as best it could.

An assembly was held this morning reiterating the Keeping Ourselves Safe programme that is run each year in conjunction with the police.

The children were "fine", and staff were answering their questions as "truthfully as we can", Mrs Langley said.

"We have very few details at our disposal at this time."

The school was cooperating with police inquiries. She was confident the procedures at the school to protect children were as "tight" as they could be.

"Once children have left the school grounds we have no control over what happens after that. At that point you rely on the community at large to behave appropriately."

Mrs Langley was grateful to members of the public who had come forward with information.

"We are hoping that more people will come forward and that there is swift resolution to this very worrying event."

PARENTS URGED TO BE VIGILANT

Timaru police are urging child caregivers to be vigilant as the investigation continues into the apparent abduction and assault of a 9-year-old Waimataitai boy last week.

The boy was found "in distress" and with facial injuries on Holme Station Bridge by a passer-by. He was taken to Timaru Hospital, where he remains in stable condition.

Investigators are hoping to have their first opportunity to speak to the boy today, said Mid-South Canterbury Area Commander Inspector Dave Gaskin.

"Taking advice from medical professionals, we have not engaged in an interview with the child before today," he said. "We have to make sure that he’s well enough to speak with us."

He would not elaborate on the extent of the child's injuries, and would not comment on whether there was any evidence of a sexual assault.

Police have not said whether they believe he was injured in a domestic incident or in an encounter with an acquaintance or a stranger. Mr Gaskin said they hoped to know more after speaking with the child.

But caregivers and schools would be wise to take extra safety precautions with children, he said.

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"If it was my child I'd be a bit more vigilant right now," he said.

The boy was found on the bridge shortly after 4pm on Thursday, after leaving Oceanview Heights School in Selwyn St at 3pm.

Investigators are still trying to determine how he arrived at the bridge, a distance of more than 15 kilometres by road.

He was found wearing his school uniform - a dark blue polar fleece, dark blue shorts and a teal green polo shirt.

It was his habit to walk home after school, police said previously.

Mr Gaskin said police are working with Oceanview Heights School in the investigation. Police found the boy’s backpack near Holme Station Bridge on Friday.

A specialist team from Christchurch also completed a search of the site at the weekend.

Police will likely return to the area later today to stop vehicles passing through in hopes of turning up more leads, Mr Gaskin said.

The boy is described as being of dark complexion, slim build, about 30kg, with dark hair. He is considered small for his age and police describe his height as more like that of a 6 or 7-year-old.

Anyone who might have seen the boy or suspicious activity near Oceanview Heights School or Holme Station Bridge should contact Timaru police on (03) 687 9808.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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