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Hampshire Constabulary is calling on motorists from Sussex to come forward with any information about two attempted child abductions in Havant after a possible suspect, arrested on Friday night, was released on bail on Sunday.
A 43-year-old man from Hastings in Sussex was detained by Hampshire officers working in Sussex. He was questioned in custody over the weekend on suspicion of both attempted child abductions, and is now on police bail until February 2013 pending further enquiries.
The first incident happened in Leigh Park at 1.50pm on Tuesday, December 18, when a 12-year-old girl was grabbed from behind in 'yellow brick road,' which runs between Purbrook Way and Middle Park Way.
In a similar incident in Emsworth at about 8.30am on Wednesday, December 19, a man attempted to grab an 11-year-old boy in Southleigh Road, Emsworth. The boy was about to cross the road when a man left a van and grabbed the boy's wrist. The boy shouted, screamed and pinched the man. The man let go and the boy ran away across the road into the traffic.
Operation Orris senior investigating officer Detective Inspector Jeff Huggett of Waterlooville CID said:
"A priority for the investigation is identifying and talking with two motorists who we believe are vital witnesses to the second attempted abduction in Emsworth.
"This appeal extends to people living in Sussex as well as Hampshire. It is possible these motorists were commuters travelling into or out of Sussex, particularly Chichester, on Wednesday morning.
"The 11-year-old victim told police that these drivers sounded their horns at him when he ran into traffic to get away from his attempted abductor.
"If you were driving a gold-coloured Mini-style car or similar model, or a blue Vauxhall, in Southleigh Road in Emsworth at around 8.30am on the morning of Wednesday, December 19, 2012, please make contact with the police.
"You may not have realised that an abduction had been attempted moments before a boy ran in front of your car. You are not suspected of any crimes, but we need to know what else you saw.
"Detectives are determined to solve this case and bring the offender to justice with the support of witnesses."
Detective Inspector Jeff Huggett added: "The response from the community this week has been tremendous. Police have received at least 45 calls from the public, and we have also spoken to more than 40 motorists following a road block on Southleigh Road. However, the evidence so far has not led to a charge at this time.
"A suspect was bailed to allow further enquiries to be completed. I would remind people not to reach premature judgements about this arrest, which is one of many leads being followed. To repeat, we know there are other potentially important witnesses, perhaps from Sussex, who have not come forward to speak with the police yet.
"A team of officers and staff continue to work extra shifts this weekend to gather and analyse information about the circumstances of both attempted abductions and the identity of whoever was responsible. We would like to thank colleagues in Sussex Police for their assistance.
"I would like to express my thanks to both children and their families after such an upsetting experience. Police are grateful to them and the parents for their time, co-operation and composure during a series of events that have disrupted their lives so close to Christmas."
The outstanding motorist witnesses, anyone else who may have seen either incident in Havant or who has any information, are asked to contact CID at Waterlooville Police Station by phoning 101 and quoting Operation Orris. Mini-com users can phone 01962 875000. Alternatively, call the independent Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111 if you wish to remain anonymous.