Man released after being questioned over schoolgirl’s attempted abduction

By Lachlan Abbott

A man has been questioned, then released after a schoolgirl said she was left scared of strangers in the street after an alleged abduction attempt in a popular Melbourne laneway.

The 14-year-old student was walking down Hosier Lane during a school excursion about 10.30am on November 15 when an unknown man approached her and tried to drag her away, Victoria Police said in a statement released on Wednesday.

Melbourne’s Hosier Lane is known for its street art murals.

Melbourne’s Hosier Lane is known for its street art murals.Credit: Wayne Taylor

An unknown male witness pretended to be a teacher and intervened, allowing the girl to escape.

At a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, the teenager, who didn’t want to be identified to protect her privacy and safety, told reporters she no longer wanted to go out in public without an older person by her side.

On Thursday afternoon, police said a Thornbury man, 37, was arrested after he went to a police station and was later interviewed. After 9pm, police announced he was released pending further enquiries.

The victim said initially her “mind was all over the place” and she didn’t realise what was happening when the unknown man approached her last month, stuck his head in her face and soon “started to talk about how I was very pretty”.

Then he grabbed her arm and pulled her closer to him. “All I could think about was how hard he was pulling me,” she said. The teenager was relieved when a young man, thought to be aged in his early 20s, intervened.

“I just burst out into tears because I just realised what had gone on,” she said.

Detective Senior Constable Joshua Guy from Victoria Police’s Melbourne sexual offences and child abuse investigation team said authorities made a public appeal for help after exhausting all other avenues.

“It’s predatory behaviour in our Melbourne streets at 10.30am in the morning. It’s certainly despicable,” he said. Guy added police still wanted to speak with the good Samaritan who had subtly intervened. He described his actions as “nothing short of heroic”.

The victim and her two school friends went to a restaurant after the incident before the teenager called her mother and broke down again.

“It was horrific to get that phone call,” her mother told reporters on Wednesday. “She was hysterical at that point.”

The girl was not physically injured and soon contacted her teachers who were elsewhere in the CBD. She said her high school class had been given licence to explore the city in small groups on the trip.

The offender was in the company of a woman, but she did not actively participate in the incident. The pair fled Hosier Lane on foot afterwards.

The victim said she thought the man appeared “under the influence of something”.

Her mother said she wanted to thank the young man who had helped her daughter.

“If not for him, we don’t know what the outcome could’ve been – for her or her friends,” she said.

Guy, from Victoria Police, said the incident was isolated, and Hosier Lane was still safe, but said the force would step up patrols in the area to reassure the community.

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