Police investigating the broad daylight sexual assault and abduction of a child in Newcastle are appealing for help from the public to find the missing link in their case.
State Crime Command Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad commander Detective Superintendent John Kerlatec on Thursday urged anyone with information about the “horrendous” attack to contact police immediately.
“Regardless of how remote they think it is, it may be the missing piece of our jigsaw,” he said.
A large-scale manhunt started earlier this week after an 11-year-old girl was attacked by an armed man while walking through Adamstown Heights to school about 9.15am on Tuesday.
The attacker sexually assaulted the child in bushland on the edge of Hudson Park – in a usually quiet neighbourhood between two schools – before he drove her to another bushland spot nearby where the ordeal continued over the next five hours.
The man left the 11-year-old at Kotara train station just after 2pm and she walked more than a kilometre to a family member’s house to raise the alarm.
Police continued their search on Thursday, combing parts of Adamstown Heights and Kotara for more clues.
Investigators have door-knocked and conducted a letterbox drop to residents in the Hudson Park area.
“Today we are following every bit of lead we’ve received from the community,” Detective Superintendent Kerlatec said.
“We’re scouring through the evidence we have so far, we’re working closely with a very brave young child who has continued, despite the horrendous crime on her, to be committed to helping police on this matter.
“We’ve received numerous phone calls, numerous pieces of information. It’s been extremely valuable.
“We are encouraged by the overwhelming response from the community. We encourage anyone with any information who hasn’t come forward yet to do so.”
CCTV footage from Kotara railway station has so far turned up nothing useful and police have not yet identified specific suspects – they were still casting “a broad net” of enquiry on Thursday morning.
The man is described as having a chubby face and hands, wrinkles on his forehead and around his mouth, brown stains on his teeth, dark messy hair and was wearing a black and grey hoodie with a distinctive blue panel on the front.
Police added on Thursday the man was also wearing jeans, beige shoes and smelled of a mixture of body odour and cigarettes.
He was last seen driving a red car, suspected to be a Holden Commodore sedan, which police believe was parked in or near Terrence Street on Tuesday morning.
Anyone with information should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. Reports can be made anonymously.