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Fear Of Predator's Return

THE streets of Oatley were quiet yesterday as parents kept their children indoors amid fears a paedophile stalking their community could strike again.
The horrendous sexual assault of a nine-year-old girl as the attacker held her young friend captive has horrified all of Sydney.
But in this tight-knit community in Sydney's south _ a slice of old-style Australian suburbia _ the shocked residents are feeling the pressure acutely.
Locals say the suburb's streets would normally now echo with the sounds of games played by holidaying schoolchildren.
But yesterday the streets _ and the park where Wednesday's attack took place _ were close to deserted.
Locals fear the pervert will strike again, with police revealing they are almost certain he has preyed on young girls before.
Nine detectives, including child sex offender specialists, are hunting the man, with the two girls helping police create a computer-generated image of him.
Investigators are already scouring details of previous attacks across Sydney to find similarities with the latest assault. They are also examining the sex offenders register.
The man is described as being about 40 years old, of white/European appearance, 183cm tall and with grey-brown receding hair.
Investigators believe the distinctive orange shirt he was wearing at the time could help identify him.
The bushland area surrounded the scene of the attack _ within the 45ha Oatley Park _ is a well-known haven for the area's young.
But yesterday the majority of vehicles driving through the park were police patrols.
Only two families were at Steamroller Park, which is near the bushland where the girl was attacked _ and both families did not know of the attack.
In another part of the park, the Helback family, with three young children, was enjoying a barbecue.
"This is the most deserted we've seen this place," Gael Helback said.
Husband Steve said they picked the area partly out of defiance.
"This area could be a haven for predators but what are you supposed to do, lock yourself in your house," he said.
Mother-of-two Elizabeth Lomas moved to Oatley just two weeks ago. Originally from the UK, theattack is not something she expected in a suburb she picked because of its quiet reputation.
"These days you just can't let your children out of your sight," she said. But Luci-Anne Claus, who has lived near nearby for 17 years, could not remember a year when the local school did not send home warnings of strangers approaching children.
"(It) is the perfect place for these people to pick up kids," she said.
Another fear now gnawing at this community is the possibility the attacker could be one of their own.
"We just hope it's not a local," newsagent Sam Papallo said.

AAP (6-10-2006)
Rhett Watson


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