PARENTS in Lurgan are on high alert after two schoolgirls, aged nine and 13, were targeted by strangers in separate incidents less than 24 hours apart.
A man in his mid-twenties who tried to sexually assault a 13-year-old girl on Monday evening remains at large in Lurgan.
And the following afternoon, a nine-year-old schoolgirl was the target of an attempted abduction outside a Lurgan primary school.
The incidents have sent shockwaves through the south Lurgan community with parents cautious about letting their children out of the house with both men responsible still at large.
It is understood at around 5pm on Monday a 13-year-old girl, who was taking her dog for a walk, was followed along Millennium Way and attacked in Trasna Way close to Hoophill.
She was punched in the face by her attacker who removed some of her clothes and attempted to force himself onto the school girl.
Thankfully the screams of the 13-year-old and the barking of her dog alerted a passer-by causing her attacker to flee the scene.
The girl was treated in hospital for cuts to her hands and bruises to her face and released that evening.
Police in Lurgan are appealing for witnesses in relation to the assault.
The young girl’s attacker was described as wearing dark clothing and being in his mid-twenties.
Police would particularly appeal to a man with blonde hair, who is believed to have been in the vicinity at the time of the assault and may have spoken to the victim.
Just after 3pm on Tuesday, a second schoolgirl was targeted in what’s understood to have been an attempted abduction.
According to police a nine-year-old girl was grabbed by the arm by a man between Kings Park Primary School and a nearby car dealership. The child was able to get her arm free and run off.
The man who grabbed the girl is described as dark skinned, around 19-years-old, approximately five foot 10 inches tall and of slim build. He was wearing a waist length puffy jacket, black jeans and smart black shoes. He had a tattoo of stars on his neck and wore a gold ring.
Commenting on Monday’s attack, Mayor of Craigavon Councillor Carla Lockhart said: “It is very alarming to hear of such an attack in the Trasna Way area of Lurgan.
“Our children’s safety within the borough is of utmost importance and this attack must be taken seriously by the PSNI and parents.
“I am sure it has been a very traumatic time for the young girl and indeed her family and my thoughts and prayers are with her. I was in contact with the PSNI on Monday night regarding the matter and they are currently investigating the incident I would therefore encourage anyone with any information to come forward to the PSNI and report it.
“The individual who did this must face the full forces of the law. I would encourage people to be vigilant and watch out for the children of the area in which you live. I will also be contacting the local schools to encourage an awareness raising campaign.”
Lexi Davidson, spokesperson for the local branch of the Progressive Unionist Party, condemned what he described as a ‘sickening’ attack in Trasna Way.
He said: “This attack has sent shock waves right across the local community. Our thoughts at this time are with this child as she recovers from what was a truly traumatic event.
“We would ask the community to be vigilant at this time and if they have any information on either of these incidents please contact the PSNI.”
Following the second incident close to King’s Park School, Constable Campbell said: “It is important that this incident is looked at in perspective however all parents should speak to their children about the importance of keeping safe and not speaking to strangers.
“In this instance the child did the right thing and left the area the moment she became uncomfortable. We are conducting enquiries to ascertain the identity of the male and his business in the area.”
Anyone with any information on either incident is asked to contact Lurgan Police Station on 0845 600 8000. You can also speak to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.