Detectives probe Ottery child 'grab' incident

DETECTIVES are hunting a man who grabbed a child as she walked home last Thursday evening.

DETECTIVES are hunting a man who "grabbed" a child as she walked home last Thursday evening.

Police this week confirmed a nine-year-old girl suffered a sprained elbow during an ordeal that lasted seconds, but talk of an attempted abduction has been played down.

Officers have moved to reassure the community and stressed: "This is a stand alone incident which police are taking very seriously."

Ottery Primary School headteacher Doug Rylance penned a letter warning of a suspected attempted abduction, saying pupils had been reminded how to keep themselves safe, and asked parents to remain vigilant and report any concerns to police.

A police spokesperson said a nine-year-old schoolgirl was approached from behind in Slade Road, near the junction of Longdogs Lane, at around 8pm last Thursday, May 27, when a man "grabbed" her right arm. The child struggled free and ran home.

The suspect was described as a man in his late 20's to early 30's, dressed in black and brown and wearing an "Indiana Jones" style hat, who had dirty hands and "some sort of material" covering his face.

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Police carried out door to door enquiries as part of extensive investigations. Detectives revealed several people have been eliminated from their enquiries.

Leading the investigation, Detective Constable Chris Willsdon of Honiton CID told the Herald: "This sort of incident is not only rare, it simply does not happen in the Ottery area. It's one of the safest places to live in the whole country. This is a stand alone incident, nothing has occurred before or after this.

"Something happened, we're not doubting that for one minute. The context is a child was grabbed on the arm. We don't know who did it or why.

"The child has given a full version of events and we have several leads- several people have been eliminated from our enquiries."

DC Willsdon said rumours had spread "like wildfire" and "Chinese whispers" in the town, but ruled out the involvement of a white van.

"We aren't looking for a white van or anybody else apart from one person," he said.

"It was not an attempt to drag a child across the road into a van...nobody has been abducted.

"It is an incident which lasted two-seconds in which someone has grabbed a child on the upper arm.

"We are taking this very, very seriously and spending a lot of man hours investigating it.

"Officers have been on the streets, carrying out extensive house to house enquiries and have stopped vehicles.

"I reinforce this is a stand alone incident that police are investigating. We don't know the motivation of the person that touched the child and are appealing for information."

The suspect was described as six feet tall and slim with a "chubby belly". He is said to have been wearing black boots, a leather waste length black jacket, a black long sleeve top and baggy black jogging bottoms.

* Contact DC Willsdon at Honiton CID with information on 08452 777444.