The alleged abduction happened at the busy Westfield North Lakes shopping centre.
The alleged abduction happened at the busy Westfield North Lakes shopping centre.

Alleged abduction kept quiet for three days

QUEENSLAND police say a three-day delay in making public the alleged abduction of a little girl from a shopping centre north of Brisbane was to protect both the victim and the investigation.

A 26-year-old Morayfield man, the father of twin babies, will face court today charged with taking a girl from Kmart at Westfield North Lakes and driving her to nearby bushland where she was allegedly molested.

The girl, aged 7, was then driven back to the shopping centre and released.

The man was arrested on Monday night and charged with taking a child for immoral purposes, deprivation of liberty and indecent treatment of a child under 12.

The alleged abduction, which occurred on December 8, was the subject of a widely shared Facebook post, detailing what appeared to be every parent's worst nightmare.

The details were so extraordinary that many thought the post to be a hoax.

"A young girl was abducted from the shop and her mum was right there," the post said, explaining that the child had been running between aisles to show her mother toys she'd like for Christmas.

"Then all of a sudden she stopped coming back, so mum looked and she was gone.

"She was gone for 1.5 hours before she was returned."

The accused is a 26-year-old Morayfield father of twins.
The accused is a 26-year-old Morayfield father of twins.

Detective Superintendent Tony Fleming said a missing-persons report was filed shortly after the child went missing, but full details only came to light once the child was returned to the shopping centre.

"It is not an uncommon occurrence for children to be separated from parents in places such as shopping centres," he said.

"Police and security then commenced action in an attempt to locate the missing child. Some details became known when the child was located and reunited with her family."

Supt Fleming said police never intended to "hide" the alleged kidnapping from the public but did not make comment publicly until late Monday because of the nature of the investigation.

His comments come after media reports surfaced on Monday, which claimed police had originally denied they were aware the incident that had allegedly occurred days earlier.

"There were some features of this incident that made it prudent for police to not make public comments until later (on Monday)," Supt Fleming said.

"For the sake of the child involved and the investigation and now prosecution it is not appropriate to speak publicly of those.

"As in all investigations involving child protection matters, officers make decisions about balancing the need to bring an offender to justice while ensuring community safety more broadly.

 

A Facebook image of the accused man
A Facebook image of the accused man

 

 

 

A Facebook image of the accused man
A Facebook image of the accused man

"At all times the welfare of the community was in our minds as well as the welfare of the young girl who has been the victim."

Police will allege the man lured the girl away from her mother in seconds, before walking her out of the centre to his car.

According to police, he then drove her to bushland at Pumicestone Passage where he is alleged to have assaulted her.

The man and girl were both tracked on CCTV. It is understood police used the footage to help identify the man.

The matter was heard in court yesterday but Magistrate Trevor Morgan ordered the public and media to leave after police prosecutors applied for the court to be closed, citing the fact there was a child victim in the case as the reason.

Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnston described the alleged incident involving the seven-year-old girl as "tragic".

"These events horrify every parent and we just can't believe they could happen but luckily, they are very rare," she said.

A Westfield North Lakes spokesperson said: "The safety and wellbeing of our customers and community is always our priority. We have been assisting Queensland Police with their inquiries."

 

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