Gardaí said “great bravery” by a 10-year-old boy saved his 11-year-old sister from being abducted by a man outside their home in rural Co Laois.
The suspect — aged 35 — was tracked down following a major Garda manhunt, aided by community text alert systems and social media requests.
The individual is said to by well known to gardaí and has a history of disturbances and violence, including a number of attacks on priests.
Detectives were in consultation with the DPP last night in relation to bringing charges against him.
The drama began at around 11am on Wednesday when the man — who was driving a stolen 4x4 — pulled up beside some children who were playing outside their home in the small village of Cullahill, not far from the Kilkenny border.
Garda sources said he was talking to the children for a short while before he made a move for the girl, who is 11.
“He was talking to them initially, general chat stuff,” said one source, “then he grabbed the girl.”
He put her into his vehicle and attempted to drive away.
“The boy grabbed onto the driver’s window and hung on and caused a rumpus,” said the source.
“As the man was trying to get him off, she managed to jump out and they raised the alarm. In fairness, it was great bravery by the little fella, who had just turned 10.”
The children ran into their home and alerted their father, who, it is understood, suffers from a long-term illness, which is why they were off school that day.
Gardaí immediately set up a manhunt.
A community text alert went out: “Urgent information on sightings of Silver 04KK registered Nissan jeep. Dark coloured trim on bottom and black roof rack. Please report any sightings to Abbeyleix Garda Station on (057) 8731202 ASAP.”
Local Fianna Fáil councillor John Joe Fennelly said: “I’m in a community alert group and I got a text alert around 12-12.30pm, giving the type of jeep and partial reg. I think it went out to all the local groups. It’s a fantastic system.”
It also went up on the Durrow Facebook Page.
Through the partial description, gardaí matched it to a silver 4x4 reported stolen in Kilkenny on Tuesday.
They checked CCTV cameras and Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras and dispatched the garda helicopter.
They tracked the car back to Durrow, where the suspect had, earlier on Wednesday, approached a priest for money who, out of compassion, gave him €10.
When gardaí were unable to find the vehicle they stepped up appeals for help to a general request yesterday morning to the public — via social media and press releases — with descriptions of both the vehicle and the driver.
They released images of a similar vehicle to the one used.
At around lunchtime yesterday they located the vehicle and arrested the man in Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny.
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