‘‘I could have lost my little girl.’’
A Unanderra father of two has told of his horror after his nine-year-old daughter was almost snatched outside her own home last week.
Lake Illawarra police are investigating the child approach – the latest in a string of incidents across the region – which happened in Albert Street about 4.30pm last Wednesday.
The young girl was in the after-school care of neighbours while her parents were at work, when she wandered out the front by herself to see another neighbour.
The girl’s father, Dale, whose surname has been withheld to protect the family’s identity, said a white van – similar in appearance to a Toyota Hiace – pulled up and a man offered her lollies to get in.
‘‘She said no and then he’s turned around and said, ‘Jump in, I’ll give you a lift home’, and she screamed and he pretty much took off,’’ Dale told the Mercury.
Detectives have spoken to the girl, who got a ‘‘pretty good description’’ of the man – long, dark hair, hazel eyes and aged in his 40s.
‘‘She said he looked about Daddy’s age, only without the beard,’’ he said.
‘‘She’s a pretty strong little nut, but she’s started to show a little bit of emotion, probably Saturday, she started getting really teary-eyed and clingy with Mum and Dad.’’
The incident has rocked the family, who have only just moved back to Unanderra after a six-month stint away. The approach occurred on the girl’s second day back at school.
‘‘I’m ropeable, I’m fuming. It’s the sort of thing you read about,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s always in the back of your head, you’ve got to bear it in mind it could happen, but once it actually happens to you it’s mind-blowing.
‘‘To think that I could have lost my little girl, I want other people to know about it.’’ Dale also has an eight-year-old daughter and has called for other families to be vigilant and keep an eye on their children.
‘‘Don’t let them out of your sight, because it can happen out the front of your own house,’’ he said.
The family alerted the girls’ school, which has since been in contact with others in the area.
Unanderra Public School issued a ‘‘stranger danger vigilance’’ notice to parents on Thursday, which cited recent reports of a man in a white van trying to talk with children on the street, particularly in Wollongong’s northern suburbs.
‘‘[Wednesday] afternoon, one of our students was approached in Albert Street, Unanderra, by a man in a white van,’’ the notice said.
The approach is the sixth in the Wollongong area since April 28 and follows incidents in Coledale, Gwynneville, Tarrawanna, Bulli and Thirroul.