WODONGA ABDUCTION ATTEMPT: Police get names as hunt continues

POLICE have been given names of suspects in the Wodonga attempted abduction case as they continue to work through the mountain of information they’ve received from the community.

It comes as police and schools try to allay panic, saying Monday’s attack is a rare occurrence.

Detective Sen-Sgt Kevin Coughlan said several names of men suspected of the attempted abducted have been given to investigators.

It’s among the significant amount of information that has come from the public since a man, described as being aged 50 to 60 with grey hair and a large belly, tried to abduct a 15-year-old schoolgirl as she walked home on Lawrence Street at 3.40pm.

Sen-Sgt Coughlan warned the investigation was still in its early stages.

“They’ve been methodically working through the information they’ve received,” he said.

“They’re still working on a couple of the stronger pieces of information they’ve received.”

Sen-Sgt Coughlan said despite three attempted abductions in Wodonga during the past 10 months, these sorts of attacks were extremely rare.

“Sexual assaults by strangers are in the low percentages compared to other statistics which centre around offenders known to victims, whether it be part of a family environment, acquaintances and the like,” he said.

“Parents shouldn’t panic, but be mindful of security and situational awareness.”

Wodonga West Primary School principal Jocelyn Owen said it was a fine line between making children aware of stranger danger and frightening them.

“They shouldn’t overreact because this should be a regular message that parents and teachers are having with children about stranger danger,” Ms Owen said.

“It shouldn’t just happen when there’s an incident, it’s something that should be talked about in a calm way and not over-sensationalising when a rare incident does occur.”

She said her teachers had regular conversations with their students about playing and walking together, not going anywhere with strangers and listening to their instincts.

“It’s just an awareness about trusting people, knowing people you can trust and if you feel funny about a situation, their feelings are saying something they should be attuned to,” Ms Owen said.

“If you’re feeling this is not right, it’s probably not right.”

She said parents are the first educators about stranger danger.

“Schools do their best, but we encourage parents to have these conversations regularly,” she said.