All sexual assaults are wrong.
But the brazen daylight attack and knifepoint abduction of an 11-year-girl – a child young enough to still be in primary school – is so abhorrent, so criminally wrong, that the entire community will be rightly urging on the police in their efforts to bring this despicable individual to heel, and quickly.
For his own sake, the person responsible for this unforgivable act should do the right thing and walk into the nearest police station and hand himself in.
There are no extenuating circumstances in a crime such as this. It offends everything that a just society expects of its members, no matter what chain of events can be concocted by a defence team – when the time comes – to excuse an accused’s behaviour.
In saying this, the Newcastle Herald is not calling for a vigilante mob to take to the streets in the name of protecting our children. But we are expressing our outrage on behalf of a community that has had its expectations of public safety cruelly shattered.
Although the police are still piecing together the elements of this horrific five-hour ordeal, we know this girl was snatched from a park that is book-ended by two schools just 500 metres apart. The busy Westfield Kotara shopping centre is a similar distance away at the other end of Hudson Park from where her daylight nightmare began.
This is not dense, isolated bushland, but a shady verge between a street and a set of playing fields, an ordinary, nondescript suburban place that should have been safe, but wasn’t. And until this attacker is caught, the police are right to urge Newcastle parents to talk to their children, to remind them of the need to practise the sort of safety techniques they are taught in school from an early age. But because truly violent crime is relatively rare in our region, “stranger danger” warnings can sometimes seem over the top. After all, most sexual assaults are perpetrated by people known to the victim. But not Tuesday’s attack.
Luckily, police have a rather detailed picture of the man they are looking for. His chubby build, messy hair, cracked lips, stained teeth, distinctively patterned “hoodie” and reeking odour stood out to his victim. Hopefully, those same characteristics will lead to someone pointing the police in the right direction, if he won’t give himself up. Because he has, quite simply, forfeited any right to freedom.