Worry after children approached

Central Otago police have ''grave concerns'' about two incidents involving schoolchildren yesterday afternoon - an alleged attempted abduction of a 12-year-old Cromwell girl and a separate incident in which a 7-year-old Alexandra boy was offered a ride home by a stranger.

Sergeant Derek Ealson said the incidents happened in Cromwell and Alexandra at different times.

Although there did not appear to be a link between them, both were unusual in Central Otago and of ''great concern'' to police.

The Cromwell girl was riding her bicycle along Achil St at 4pm, going to a shop in Old Cromwell, when she noticed a white van with ''blacked out windows'' following her, Sgt Ealson said.

She went into the shop and headed home, but noticed the van continued to follow her.

On Blyth St, one of the two men in the van allegedly grabbed her from behind and lifted her off the bicycle.

''She fought back and managed to break free,'' Sgt Ealson said.

The two men got back into the van and drove off.

The van had silver writing on the left door, including an ''O'' or zero, and the occupants were described as ''dark-skinned with foreign accents'', he said.

One had shoulder-length dreadlocks and a distinctive red mark under his left eye and the other had a shaven head.

Police wanted to hear from anyone who had witnessed the incident or seen the van or men matching those descriptions, as it was being treated as an attempted abduction.

The girl was uninjured but shaken, Sgt Ealson said.

A 7-year-old boy was offered a ride home by a stranger in a four-door silver car at 4.50pm in the cul-de-sac by Ventry St, near Alexandra Primary School, he said.

The car stopped and the driver, described as a male Maori aged between 30 and 40, asked if the boy wanted a ride home.

The boy declined and the man drove off.

lynda.van.kempen@odt.co.nz