Australian police have charged an Australian man with abduction and serious assault in relation to the disappearance of a four-year-old boy.
Police could not reveal any information about the identity of the child, due to his age and safety concerns. However, they did state that he was found safe and well on Saturday after allegedly being abducted from Wollongong Central Shopping Centre on Friday evening by an unknown male person.
The perpetrator of the abduction, a 52-year-old man from Unanderra in NSW’s Illawarra region, was arrested on Saturday and will appear at Wollongong Local Court on Sunday.
Searches for the four-year-old boy were conducted by police and SES volunteers throughout Friday night and into Saturday morning.
The boy was found at 9.30am on Saturday in bushland near Fowlers Road, Unanderra – about 2 kilometres from the shopping centre he went missing from. He was assessed by paramedics and will be reunited with his family today after receiving medical attention for minor injuries.
Detective Inspector Brad Ainsworth praised members of the community who had assisted in the search for the boy.
We’d like to thank everyone involved, particularly those members of the public that stopped and helped with the search throughout the night, he said.
From all accounts this was a very frightening experience for the boy but thankfully we found him safe and well.
The child abduction is the second to occur in Australia this week, following the abduction of a seven-year-old girl from Boronia Park Public School on Wednesday morning.
The NSW girl was released by her attackers after being held for several hours and police are still searching for her perpetrator.
This is the first child abduction in NSW since November 2012, when two 12-year-old girls were abducted by a man at Shalvey and forced into his car. The girls escaped after an hour and the perpetrator was arrested soon after.
There have been no child abduction cases reported in Victoria since 2012, but two occurred last year; one of which occurred on January 8 when a 12-month-old boy was taken from a home at Campbellfield and returned safely within 36 hours.
The other occurred on August 3, when a man driving a white van picked up an eight-year-old girl from outside her school in Broadmeadows. She was found 12 days later after being dropped off by the man near her mother’s house in Elwood.
In South Australia, there have been no child abductions since September 2013 when a nine-year-old girl was abducted from her home in Daw Park and sexually assaulted before being released the following day.
On Wednesday, NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione announced that all ‘stranger danger’ cases will be investigated by police prior to the Child Abuse Squad, in an effort to improve the safety of children.
We can’t allow for there to be any mistake made about these things, Mr Scipione said. As police commissioners, we are responsible for ensuring that our officers focus on protecting people.
This latest incident comes just days after NSW Police launched a new mobile phone app called ‘Au Pair’ – a tool designed to allow parents to track the location of their children.
The new app, developed in partnership with Telstra and Google, will enable parents to track children in real time via a person’s mobile phone or tablet.