Girl allegedly abducted from North Lakes shopping centre and sexually assaulted
A man has been charged over the alleged kidnapping and sexual assault of a seven-year-old girl, who was taken from a shopping centre north of Brisbane on Saturday.
- Police questioned on why the public not told immediately about an alleged abduction
- Detective said the disappearance was not initially considered an abduction
- Man, 26, facing multiple charges due to appear in court again on Tuesday
A 26-year-old Morayfield man has been charged with taking a child for immoral purposes, deprivation of liberty and indecent treatment of a child under 12.
A police media spokesman said the man allegedly spoke to the young girl and they left the store together.
It is believed police used CCTV to identify the man.
He appeared in the Pine Rivers Magistrates Court on Monday.
The Pine Rivers Court was closed while the matter was briefly mentioned on Tuesday morning before being adjourned to be later heard again.
A Facebook post circulated widely over the past few days gave a second-hand account of the incident, claiming that a child was taken from Kmart at North Lakes, while her mother was shopping.
The post claimed that the child was returned about an hour and a half later.
But when contacted by the ABC on Monday, staff at Queensland Police Media said they were not aware of the incident.
Police said an investigation centre was set up to find the man which included detectives from the Child Protection Investigation Unit and the Child Abuse and Sexual Crime Group.
The man allegedly kidnapped the girl from Westfield North Lakes, north of Brisbane. (Facebook: Westfield North Lakes)
Queensland police responded to questions about why the public were not told sooner about the alleged abduction.
In a statement, Detective Superintendent Tony Fleming said for the sake of the child and the investigation, it was “not appropriate” to reveal details.
“As in all investigations involving child-protection matters, officers make decisions about balancing the need to bring an offender to justice while ensuring community safety more broadly,” he said.
Superintendent Fleming said the welfare of the community and the girl were considered “at all times”.
“Preventing more crime is a core consideration … I am satisfied the actions of the police minimised the risk during this period,” he said.
He said police did not issue an Amber Alert on Saturday because the child’s disappearance was not initially considered an abduction.
“This is not an uncommon occurrence for children to be separated from parents in places such as shopping centres … in this case, at the time of the report there was no indication the child had been abducted.
“Some details became known when the child was located and reunited with her family.”
Store very busy at time of incident
Jana Hesketh was at the centre with her family on Saturday and said the store was extremely busy.
“While we were in Kmart, announcements were made for someone to go to either customer service or the check-out repeatedly, I’d say every five minutes or so,” Ms Hesketh said.
She said the announcements became increasingly tense and urgent.
A Kmart spokesman said the store is aware of the incident and is assisting police with their investigation.