Jane would rather not use her real name.
She says she’s had enough unwanted attention since an unidentified man tried to snatch her 13-year-old daughter from the Robert Service School playground in Dawson City.
“I’ve had phone calls ringing off the hook,” says Jane, looking surprisingly composed as she cuddles with her daughter under a blanket on a blue, cushy couch.
“I appreciate people’s concern, but I’m not the type of person who likes attention like this.”
In 2005, there were 30 cases of child abduction considered either a kidnapping or the result of foul play, according to the National Missing Children’s Services website. That’s the lowest number recorded in 20 years.
It’s a social ill that northerners associate with life in large, urban centers in the South.
But, last Wednesday, a man offering candy approached Jane’s daughter in the schoolyard.
“‘Do you want some candy?’ It seems so unreal that someone would use that line,” says Jane. “When she said no, he said, ‘Why? Everybody likes candy.’”
When she refused to go with him again, the man grabbed Jane’s daughter around the waist from behind and began to pull.
Jane says she’s thankful for her daughter’s choice of playground equipment that day.
“I’m just glad that she was on the swing and had something to hang on to,” says Jane. “On the street they could have easily picked her up and thrown her in a vehicle.”
Jane’s daughter told her mom that the man was “pulling really hard and then he moved his hands up a bit and pulled her again.”
The slight girl attempted to get away when she began to feel weak from holding on to the swing.
“She took one hand and hit him across his arm really hard,” says Jane, looking over at her daughter. “Then he finally let go of her but, before he did, he said, ‘I just want to take you for a ride.’”
Jane’s daughter ran inside the school once she was free and tried to tell her group of friends what happened. When they were too busy to listen, she grabbed her things and took the school bus home where she called her mother at work.
She was unable to reach her, but Jane’s cousin eventually did, breaking the news that something terrible had occurred.
“I was in shock. A bit stunned,” says Jane. “I phoned her at home and told her to lock the door and I asked her about it. She was really quiet.”
Jane called the police after speaking with her daughter. Jane says the RCMP acted quickly and were soon combing the streets after meeting with Jane’s daughter to get details of the incident.
“They had all of their officers looking around,” says Jane. “They had a plan in place already to look for this person.”
The RCMP are seeking public assistance locating a 35-year-old Caucasian man with brownish-red spiked hair. The man is about six-feet, two-inches tall and was wearing a sweater with horizontal stripes.
Police are also on the lookout for a dark blue Ford station wagon, a newer model, that may have been involved in the incident.
The car contained two people, a heavyset man in his 50s and a woman with short grey hair who was between 50 and 60 years old.
The RCMP haven’t yet located these people, but Jane is hopeful they will catch them soon.
Until they do, Jane says she is concerned this could happen again.
“There are lots of kids that wander around the streets at all hours of the night,” says Jane, “and their parents don’t know where they are or what they’re doing. There’s always kids all over the place.”
Jane has some simple advice for the parents of those children,.
“Talk to your kids about being aware of strangers and staying with your friends,” says Jane. “Let someone know where you are at all times.”
Jane says she had a similar talk with her daughter while she was growing up and credits those discussions with helping her daughter react appropriately last Wednesday.
“She realizes it can really happen even right out in the school ground where there’s kids and stuff in the big wide open space.” says Jane. “Someone can just go and grab her. Tourists or people with vans. They can easily take her and no one would know at all… I don’t think she was singled out. She just happened to be the one out on the playground at that time.”
Jane’s daughter returned to school on Friday and, according to her mother, is showing no sign of being shaken up by the ordeal.
“I’m a little bit worried that she’s not more affected,” says Jane. “She doesn’t realize what could have happened, what terrible stuff there is out there. She’s pretty protected.”
Jane says that it has disturbed her more, especially when she thinks how close she was to something happening to her daughter.
“I didn’t want to think of the negative things that could have happened because she is here,” says Jane, calmly looking over at her daughter. “It took me a lot of years to let go of fears like that when she was younger.”
It isn’t until Jane is outside the house and away from her daughter that her composed demeanour melts away and reveals the unease beneath.
“If we knew more about him, if he’s tried this before, then it would really sink in — how close she came,” she says, fighting back tears.
Jane’s cool disposition returns as she walks back to the house. She turns to say one last thing before slipping through the front door.
“I try not to think what could have happened, but I’m thankful she’s here,” says Jane. “I couldn’t live without her.”