Police are investigating the sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl, who they say was confronted by a man with a knife and dragged into bushland, after getting off her school bus.
The incident occurred yesterday afternoon at around 3:30pm in the Lake Macquarie suburb of Windale, in the Hunter region of New South Wales.
Police said the girl lived a short distance away from the Pacific Highway bus stop and was walking along a short bush track near Yertala Close when she was confronted by a man dressed in a black hoodie.
“This young girl was just going about her business like any other day just like many other hundreds and thousands of kids do each day throughout New South Wales and Australia, minding her own business, it’s a brazen attack,” Commander of the state’s Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad, Detective Superintendent John Kerlatec, said.
Police said the assault lasted for several minutes before the attacker ran away and was seen getting into a silver car.
The girl then ran to a nearby house where the residents helped her call triple-zero.
She was then taken to John Hunter Hospital for examination and is now in the care of her family.
“She’s obviously very traumatised by this incident,” Detective Superintendent Kerlatec said.
“I can’t fully describe how it would be, I haven’t walked in her shoes, but I can say she’s exceptionally strong, she’s helping us with this investigation, she’s supported by her family and her friends.”
The girl’s family has told the ABC that she is in good spirits, but they are deeply concerned about the trauma she has suffered.
Residents in Windale have also expressed shock at the attack, which occurred close to several houses.
“I’m pretty rattled actually,” resident Cassie Miller said.
“I’ve got three girls of my own and it’s pretty scary to know that it could happen to them.
“I think it’s disgusting, and I’m just shocked. My kids are staying home, they’re not going anywhere, I’ll be keeping them close.”
Fellow resident Nikki James said the area had its problems, but this was “a bit surreal”.
“You’ve got other things like fights and other things, but not rapes or anything like that, especially at 3 o’clock in the day.”
The alleged perpetrator is described as being aged in his 30s or 40s, with a heavy build, a large belly and legs, a prominent nose and lips.
He was last seen wearing a black hooded jumper, long dark-coloured pants, and white sneakers.
Police said between 15 and 20 officers were working on the case and had called for anyone with information to come forward.
In particular, they are seeking dash-cam vision from motorists who may have been travelling on the Pacific Highway or South Street between 3pm and 4pm yesterday.
“What we’re looking at is a large jigsaw and we don’t have all the pieces,” Detective Superintendent Kerlatec said.
“In fact, we don’t even know what the picture looks like and any piece can help, so if you have any piece of information please contact Crime Stoppers.
“It is important that we identify this perpetrator, get him off the streets. It’s particularly important for the young victim, that she can see justice, that she can see that we as a community can take her matter seriously and do everything that we can to help her.”
It is the second alleged schoolgirl attack in the Hunter region this year, after a 47-year-old man was charged in June with kidnapping and sexually abusing an 11-year-old in the Newcastle suburb of Adamstown, a 13-minute drive north of Windale.