Boy still key to kidnap mystery

ROSA STUDHOLME AND MEGAN MILLER
Last updated 17:11 20/11/2012
Holme Station Bridge
NATASHA MARTIN/Fairfax NZ

INFORMATION SOUGHT: Police conduct a checkpoint at Holme Station Bridge in hopes of receiving more information into the apparent abduction and assault of a 9-year-old boy last week.

keryn
NATASHA MARTIN/ Fairfax NZ
CLOSE EYE: Keryn Wright picks her children up from Oceanview Heights School yesterday. (From left) Hannah, 7, Brooke, 9, and Brandon Tait, 11.
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.

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Parents at Oceanview Heights School are taking no chances with their children’s safety following a suspected abduction and assault of a student leaving school last week.

Keryn Wright, who has a son and two daughters at the school, said she was reacting "the way most parents would, really".

"Just a lot more cautious. I’m just making sure the kids go into the classroom before I leave and being here when school finishes."

Her 11-year-old son, Brandon, usually travelled to school by himself on his scooter but she no longer let him.

"Since that’s happened I’ve made him stay with me."

She said she was talking honestly with her children to help them understand what had happened.

"I thought as a parent you need to tell them that there are a...holes out there.

"They just ask questions because they’re young and they don’t really understand that."

One of her daughters was friends with the boy.

She said it had been a "shock", especially that it had happened in Timaru.

Another parent, Phillipa Watson, said it had been "totally unexpected".

"My kids have been coming to the school for 12 years. You don’t expect it in this area at all."

She said the school was doing everything it could for the kids.

"We’re just working as hard as we can to keep our kids safe."

Her children had been "quite quiet" about the incident but she was talking to them as needed.

"I don’t want to put the heeby-jeebies up them."

Helen Chapman was at the school to pick up a student who she looks after two afternoons a week.

"His mum told him not to leave the school gate until I got there," she said.

Her 12-year-old son is a student at Gleniti School who bikes to meet her on Selwyn St, and she was warning him to stay away from strangers.

"I (told him) keep biking. You just say you can’t stop and keep going."

Principal Jenny Langley said procedures had tightened at the school and it was taking its lead from the police.

Support from other schools had been "magnificent", she said.

Boy still key to kidnap mystery

Police spoke this morning with a Selwyn St woman who told media that she'd seen a suspicious man photographing children at Oceanview Heights School.

Mid-South Canterbury Area Commander Dave Gaskin said the woman, identified in media reports as 52-year-old Catherine Sadler, had been interviewed, but he did not disclose what information she had provided.

Mr Gaskin said he didn't yet know if she had given a description of the man she saw and cautioned that it was not known if the information was relevant to the investigation.

Meanwhile, two officers are hoping to speak again this afternoon with the 9-year-old boy who was apparently abducted and assaulted on Thursday after leaving the school.

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The boy remains in Timaru Hospital in stable condition with injuries to his mouth and jaw.

He was found at Holme Station Bridge at 4.20pm on Thursday, after leaving Oceanview Heights School in Selwyn St about 3pm.

Investigators first spoke with the boy yesterday in a "preliminary interview ... (to establish) rapport with the young man," Mr Gaskin said.

"Interviewing children is always a difficult task and it's going to take time to get the truth as to exactly what happened."

The boy's injuries did not prevent him from talking, and he did engage with police, Mr Gaskin said.

Mr Gaskin would not say whether any persons of interest had been established, or confirm whether police believed the abduction was sexually motivated.

Police were "slowly but surely" building a picture of what happened from information gathered from the public, he said, but would not elaborate.

The investigation has put additional strain on the already-stretched resources of Timaru’s criminal investigation staff. The department is handling several serious crime investigations that have occurred in recent months.

Staff have been pulled from other investigations to focus on the abduction case, Mr Gaskin said.

He said he had not requested additional assistance from Christchurch, aside from enlisting the help of a team specialising in crime scene searches that combed the Holme Station Bridge area at the weekend.

Mr Gaskin urged anyone that had information to call the Timaru police on (03) 687 9808 or to visit the police station in North Street.

- The Timaru Herald

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