Alleged attempted kidnapping at Winchester PS

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A frightening incident at Winchester Public School on September 14 caused quite a stir both around town and online. An official release sent out by Principal Tracy Armstrong gives details on what happened. 

“Today at the end of last recess, a suspicious person stopped and questioned some students and tried to engage in conversation with them from the vehicle, which was on the York St. side of the school yard,” the letter reads. “When the staff on duty approached, the person left. Police were notified, given a description of the person, and are investigating the incident. There was extra supervision at bus time today and as an extra precaution, parents and guardians of our walking students met their child(ren) at school. The students that were around when this incident happened reacted swiftly and maturely, and did not engage with the individual. Know that the safety and well-being of our students is always a priority at our school. Please take this opportunity to speak with your child about what a stranger is and what to do if they are ever approached by a stranger.”

While other details of what occurred were unclear, much speculation did occur online after the incident. Some parents commented on a social media post sharing some of the wild stories born from their children’s imaginations after arriving home. Others shared unconfirmed descriptions of the suspect, as provided by their children. One post by a parent suggested that her child had spotted a young child already in the suspect’s car at the time of the incident. 

The OPP provided an update on the incident on September 15, stating that it was still under investigation. The only information provided was that the local police detachment was investigating reports of a “suspicious male” in the vicinity of the school. Police cruisers were noticeably present around the school at bell times and recesses in the days following the incident, and police were also seen circulating in the area on the day of the incident. 

On September 16, the community was able to finally breathe a sigh of relief when it was announced that the alleged perpetrator was caught. A 34-year-old man from Ottawa is facing charges of kidnapping and criminal harassment in connection with the incident. 

With the community of Winchester and surrounding communities shaken by what occcured, parents are reminded of the importance of teaching their children about stranger danger. Children should be taught what strangers are, and that strangers do not always look evil or act bad at first. Children should also be taught appropriate steps to take if they believe they are in danger. This includes running to a public place such as a store or post office, or a trusted friend or relative’s house if they feel like they are being followed or if a stranger is making them uncomfortable. It also means knowing that if grabbed by a stranger, rules regarding tantrums and hitting or hurting people no longer apply, and they should do what is necessary to alert others and get away. Children should also be reminded to report any suspicious activity to a trusted adult immediately. 

 

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