16-year-old charged over `act of evil'

A 16-year-old Turangi boy will appear in court today charged with the sexual violation of a 5-year-old girl in a holiday park, an attack described by her parents as a "random act of evil''.

Police last night announced the arrest a week after the attack on the young tourist that horrified locals and the rest of the country.

Up to 30 officers worked on the Operation Turangi investigation and inquiry chief Detective Inspector Mark Loper said they became "interested'' in the local boy and interviewed him yesterday afternoon.

The 16-year-old will appear in the Taupo Youth Court this afternoon to face charges of sexual violation, aggravated wounding and burglary.

The family of the girl, on holiday from Europe, said last night that they were "very relieved'' after hearing of the arrest.

In a statement, they expressed their gratitude to the police and praised the generosity of the Turangi community, which raised $13,000 for them.

"We can't thank [the police] enough. They were meticulous, thorough and caring. They are a credit to New Zealand.

"We are again amazed at the generosity of New Zealanders and thank this community. We know what happened was a random act of evil and will never hold Turangi responsible for it. We feel their love and support tonight.''

Mr Loper said he was pleased for the victim and her family, and for the "good people'' of Turangi, that an arrest had been made within a week.

"This case has really touched the hearts of so many people in New Zealand and staff from the police and ESR have worked with dogged determination to bring about an early resolution.

"That has included giving up precious family time over Christmas, for which I must sincerely thank the staff and their families.

"I also want to extend my thanks to the good people of Turangi who have given us tremendous support, rallying around the family and the police.''

The manhunt was triggered after the 5-year-old was attacked on the night of Wednesday, December 21, in a caravan at the Club Habitat Holiday Park in Turangi. She sustained significant injuries to her head and body.

The girl's parents were in an amenities block just metres from their caravan at the time.

Her mother returned to find the caravan locked, and through a window saw a man on top of her daughter.

She ran screaming for her husband, and they found their daughter unconscious on the bed.

Her 3-year-old brother was also in the caravan, but asleep.

The girl underwent four hours of surgery in Waikato Hospital and was discharged on Tuesday.

The Waikato District Health Board has been inundated with letters and emails from people who were appalled and ashamed at the attack.

The DHB released a sample of the messages yesterday, before the arrest.

One writer said: "Really, really sorry this happened to you, I am disgusted at some of the people in our country. I feel ashamed to be a New Zealander. Hope the wee girl makes a full recovery and that your family see that New Zealand is a beautiful place with friendly caring people, not monsters.''

Club Habitat manager Sylvia George said she was very pleased when police told her last night of the arrest.

"I'm round here so much at night and you start wondering what might happen ... It's just such a huge relief .''

Following the attack, Ms George said she had thought about carrying a cricket bat with her when she walked around the camping ground.

Senior Station Officer Tong Kingi of the Turangi Fire Brigade said the arrest was a "bloody good result''

and closure for both the little girl's family and the Turangi community.

"And the police have worked some pretty long hours ... so I think they needed the closure for themselves as well.

"We're all pretty traumatised about the whole thing, the fact it was so close to home for us, and I've got young kids myself so it pulls on the old heartstrings a bit,'' Mr Kingi said.

A Turangi woman, who did not want to be identified, said she, too, was relieved to hear that the police had charged someone but said it was "disheartening'' that the arrested boy was a local.

- Jared Savage, Amelia Wade and Hayden Donnell, NZ Herald

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