Mel Hargraves and Dominic Feain
A witness to an alleged attempted abduction at knifepoint of a five-year-old girl by a teenager who ran amok in a Ballina shopping centre on Friday afternoon causing mass panic, said she was ‘totally relieved’ she wasn’t living in the US with its lax gun laws.
A 17-year-old youth is currently being held for mental assessment at Lismore Adult Mental Health Inpatient Unit (formally the Richmond Clinic) following his arrest at Ballina Fair shopping mall and appearance in court on Saturday.
A shaken shop assistant, who asked to remain anonymous, saw the whole drama unfold before her.
‘It’s a freaky world, thank God we have strict gun laws here,’ she told Echonetdaily.
‘I was in the shop when all of a sudden people started running around and screaming. A guy screamed “quick lock your doors! man with a knife, man with a knife”.
‘It was a total freak-out, people kept saying call the police, call the police.’
The witness said the man had entered the shopping complex wearing some kind of mask, hoodie and sunnies.
‘He raced through the centre and then grabbed a little girl with a woman,’ she said.
‘A man jumped him, but he got cut.
‘The man’s in custody now but we’re all shaken, poor little girl. I had young people hiding in the back room crying, totally freaked-out.
‘Lots of people noticed him because he looked strange in sunglasses, hood and some kind of mask.’
The youth was refused bail in Lismore Children’s Court on Saturday, with the magistrate ordering he be held at the Lismore clinic for psychiatric assessment.
Police said they have been told the youth had entered the shopping centre just after 4pm and walked into a supermarket where he stole a kitchen knife. He then walked to a children’s ride where a five-year-old girl was playing.
‘It’s alleged the youth took hold of the girl’s arm and dragged her away from her mother and siblings, while holding the knife out in front of him,’ a police spokesperson said.
‘A number of people intervened, asking for him to let the girl go. At this stage she managed to break free, and a 32-year-old man attempted to apprehend the teen.
‘A brief struggle allegedly ensued, in which the 32-year-old suffered a small stab wound to his hand, and hit his head on a shop counter, causing a large head wound.
‘The man was assisted by a number of other shoppers who disarmed the youth and held him until police arrived.’
The 17-year-old was arrested and taken to Ballina Police Station, where he was charged with: take or detain child with intent to remove from parental control; reckless wounding; armed with intent to commit indictable offence; face blackened or disguised with intent to commit indictable offence; shoplifting; and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.