A stranger accused of whipping an eight-year-old child with a dog leash in a Figtree park has left an unmistakable mark on the boy, prompting an angry outcry.
The boy, who is on the autism spectrum, has told police he was was riding his bike on a shared path through Roy Johansen Park about 5pm on May 15 when he collided with a black and white dog, believed to be a border collie.
According to the boy’s mother, whose online account of the assault has gone viral, the boy apologised to the dog’s owner, but the man “whipped him across the back with the metal end of the lead”.
“Not only was this an extremely traumatic event but … this has caused significant injury to my son,” the boy’s mother, Kristina Judge, wrote.
“This laceration is still visible and significantly bruised some five days later. He has not been able to sleep on his back or comfortably sit in his chair at school all week.”
Ms Judge did not witness the assault but has told police she heard her son screaming, and caught sight of the man as he ran from the area.
“I crossed paths with him as he was chasing his dog to put the lead back on,” Ms Judge told the Mercury.
“I got to my son; he was beside himself. He said, ‘that man’s just hit me on the back.
“I lifted up his shirt and saw the mark and called to my partner, ‘that man has hit him! Go and find him! But he had bolted.”
Ms Judge said she spoke to other parents who witnessed the assault and went to her son’s aid.
The boy, whose name she does not want shared, may not have been able to stop when the dog ran across his path, she said.
“He’s on the autism spectrum – very high functioning – but he has a motor planning delay, so he doesn’t have fantastic coordination.
“So even if there was time, he might not have been able to stop.”
“Adults should not be doing this to anybody, but especially a child. I think it was just an instant reaction, but that doesn’t excuse it at all. We’re adults, we should be in control of ourselves.”
Ms Judge has been inundated with messages of support, and anger. She urges against any form of vigilante justice and worries that people will mistake innocent passers-by for her son’s attacker.
An older man in the neighbourhood – a friend – also walks a border collie in the area.
“He’s one of the most lovely men – I don’t want anyone to think it’s him,” she said.
Wollongong Police are now appealing for assistance to find the man, described as tall and aged in his 40s, with balding, short, grey hair and a slim/athletic build. He wore tan/mustard coloured pants and a navy top at the time of the alleged assault.
Wollongong Police Inspector Mark Walker called on anyone who knew the man to make contact with police.
“Of course we take seriously an allegation that an eight-year-old has been struck with what effectively is a whip,” he said.
“It’s just not acceptable. We can’t have mature adults assaulting children under the age of 10, over what appears to be an accident.”
“From the description of the male and the dog, someone in this local area knows who this man is, and we want to talk to him.”
Contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 to assist with the police investigation.