SCHOOLGIRL FIGHTS OFF KIDNAPPER
By ZOE SATHERLEY and SHAN GOODWIN
KYOGLE parents Richard and Jo-Anne Goodwin thank God their 11-year-old daughter is alive and well after she fought off a would-be abductor yesterday morning.
Police are warning parents to be vigilant after the attempted kidnap ? the fifth on the Northern Rivers since August 29.
The Goodwins' daughter was cycling to St Brigid's Primary School at 8.20am when a man tried to pull her off her bike.
In a nightmare struggle, the girl lost her balance and argued with the man, who told her that he had her mother's permission to take her with him.
The plucky youngster then punched the man on the arm before climbing back on her bike and speeding off towards her school, less than 500 metres away on the Summerland Way.
Her mother said the girl arrived breathless and hysterical, racing in to report the incident to a teacher, who immediately called the principal.
The principal called Mrs Goodwin at home.
The man was described to police as caucasian, 50-plus, plumpish and with grey receding hair. He was wearing a red T-shirt and glasses.
Police are preparing a Comfit image and expect to release it in the next few days.
Jo-Anne and Richard Goodwin ? the parents of five children aged 13, 11, 7, 6 and 5 ? were in deep shock yesterday.
"We are just so proud of her courage and resilience and how she handled the situation. We thank God that she is still with us," her father, a kiln operator at Boral Timber, said.
"We feel very lucky and very blessed, but our hearts can't help aching for the families of other children who have been abducted.
"We moved to Kyogle eight years ago because it is a very safe and friendly town ? a wonderful place to bring up children ? but this just proves your kids are not really safe anywhere these days."
Police believe the five abduction attempts are separate incidents.
Crime manager for the Richmond Local Area Command, Detective Inspector Steve Clarke, said the matters were very serious and a team of investigators, child specialists and officers from the crime management unit had been put on the cases.
Jo-Anne Goodwin, an assistant in nursing at Kyogle Court, said she was grateful her daughter's school had instilled in her child a knowledge of what to do if approached by a stranger.
"They have a program called Bounce Back which teaches children to 'fight and flee' their attacker," she said.
"My daughter remembered this advice when she was grabbed."
Mr Goodwin said families needed to increase their vigilance to keep their children safe.
"And if you see a child yelling or arguing with someone, even if you think it is a parent, stop and ask if they are OK," he said.
"I just hate to think what might have happened to our daughter if the man had been able to drag her off somewhere, or to his car if he had one nearby."
The principal of St Brigid's Primary School yesterday sent a short note home with students outlining the circumstances relating to the incident.
The note emphasised to parents the school's advice relating to stranger danger, and asked them to continue to be vigilant with supervising their children on their way to and from school.
Kyogle Primary School also has heightened security at car pick-up points and bus stops, and sent warning notes to parents.
Det Insp Clarke said the 11-year-old girl had been very upset by the incident and distraught when interviewed by police.
"And we are urging people to report any incidents of a similar nature to police," he said.
Anyone with information should phone Crimestoppers on 1800333000.