An alleged sexual predator has been arrested and charged, after police say he disguised himself in military camouflage gear three months ago to abduct and sexually assault a young girl who was on her way to school.
Police launched Strike Force Garawan to investigate the attack at Narara on the Central Coast on May 15, where the girl was grabbed from behind, dragged into bushland and sexually and indecently assaulted.
Eventually she escaped, running to her school where she raised the alarm.
Troy Johnson, 31, was arrested at Lake Haven, near Wyong, on Friday night when his car was stopped in what police have described as a “very well-planned operation”.
Local police, the Child Abuse Squad and the Sex Crimes Squad then searched his home in nearby Woongarrah, where they seized items including clothing and a knife.
Detective Superintendent Linda Howlett, the commander of the Sex Crimes Squad, said police will allege Mr Johnson was wearing a Ghillie suit at the time he attacked the young girl.
The heavy burlap suits are a type of shaggy camouflage clothing often used by the military to help soldiers blend into backdrops such as scrub or sand.
Detective Superintendent Howlett said the young victim was handling the situation “remarkably well” after being told her alleged attacker had been arrested.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank the public for their assistance. This investigation has had a lot of publicity,” Detective Superintendent Howlett said.
“I also want to acknowledge the bravery of the victim. She has been absolutely exceptional with the detail she has been able to provide the investigation, and I personally want want to thank her for all of her assistance.
“Obviously she’s relieved that an offender has been arrested. It is of some comfort to her.”
There is an “ongoing investigation” into a second assault, also at Narara, on June 4.
In that incident, an 18-year-old woman was walking near Narara train station at 4.30pm when she was grabbed from behind by a man wearing a hooded jumper, camouflage pants and black boots.
She managed to kick the man, break free, and run off while shouting for help.
Mr Johnson faces nine charges over the attack on the 12-year-old, including kidnapping with intent to commit a serious indictable offence, aggravated sexual assault, producing child abuse material, and possessing or using a prohibited weapon.
He faces a further four charges over the alleged sexual assault of a second girl, aged 11, who police say was known to him.
Detective Superintendent Howlett said the 11-year-old was assaulted from late 2016 to early 2017.
“Now that this arrest has taken place, there’s a possibility that further victims will come forward,” Detective Superintendent Howlett said.
She urged parents to have a conversation with their children about how to raise the alarm if they were approached by someone who intended to harm them.
Mr Johnson was taken to Wyong Police Station after his arrest, where he suffered a “medical episode” and was taken to hospital under police guard.
He is expected to face Wyong Local Court on Sunday.