A teenager was almost home from school when a man armed with a knife dragged her into the bush and sexually assaulted her in a broad daylight attack at Windale.
The 14-year-old was walking through a reserve after she got off the bus at the corner of the Pacific Highway and South Street, only a few metres from a cluster of homes where hundreds of people live, when she was snatched just after 3.40pm on Wednesday.
Police said yesterday the ordeal lasted “a matter of minutes” before the man fled in a silver car and the teenager raised the alarm with a family friend.
The brazen assault has drawn detectives from the State Crime Command’s Sex Crimes Squad to the Hunter to investigate a public, daytime attack on a young girl for the second time in four months – a man has been charged over the first incident at Adamstown Heights.
“It is shocking – three-thirty, daylight on a clear day when there’s lots of people around. It just demonstrates how brazen this person is,” Sex Crimes Squad commander Superintendent John Kerlatec said.
“It’s important that we identify this perpetrator and get him off the streets. It’s particularly important for the young victim that she can see justice.
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“She’s obviously very traumatised by this incident. I can’t fully describe how it would be, I haven’t walked in her shoes. But I can say she’s exceptionally strong, she’s helping us with our investigation, she’s being supported by her family and her friends.”
The attacker is described as 30 to 40 years old with a prominent nose and lips, a solid build and was wearing a dark hoodie, dark long pants and grey joggers.
Police spent Wednesday night and most of Thursday combing through the scene of the attack and spoke to nearby residents in search of clues.
Nikki James, whose home backs onto the reserve, told the Newcastle Herald she was out the front with her three kids – all aged under six – at the time of the attack. She said she was “dumbfounded”.
“We’ve had some crazy crap happen, like cars getting stolen, fights and stuff, but nothing like this,” she said.
Her neighbour Cassie Miller said she told her three daughters, aged 10, 13 and 16, not to go near the reserve.
“They’ve said themselves ‘we’re scared now’,” she said. “I’ve warned them not to walk around alone.”
Lake Macquarie police commander Superintendent Danny Sullivan urged anyone with information, including dash cam footage from the South Street area around the time of the assault, to contact police.
“I’ve seen the matter out on social media now and I’ve seen the reaction of our community and I can only agree with the things that are being said about this terrible crime,” he said.
Superintendent Kerlatec said parents should remind children not to walk alone, remain in open spaces and make sure an adult knew where they were at all times. He said kids should trust their instincts if they felt uncomfortable or unsafe.
“Tell a teacher, tell a police officer, go into the nearest shop – do something,” he said. “Until we find this person I do ask that we take extra precautions.”
Information can be given to police anonymously through Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
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