It’s been about 72 hours since Dano was abducted from a park near to where we live. He is 5 years old and he lives in a flat overlooking a park. It is alleged that his mother let him play in the park alone because she was able to observe him from the flat window. He was outside for less than half an hour when his mother could no longer see him and her worst fears had come true. Dano had either walked off or was taken. The fact that 72 hours later he has not emerged safe and sound suggests that he has been taken and killed. A surprising statistic in American abductions is that 74% of abducted children who are ultimately murdered are dead within 3 hours of the abduction.
Update: Tragically, Dano’s death was confirmed by the German authorities. It turns out he had gone to the park near to where he lived and went back to his friends flat. He had played there many times before and the families knew each other well. Dano got into an argument with the boy and a scuffle ensued. The other boy’s father hit Dano and Dano threatened to tell his mother. The friend’s father dragged Dano into his flat and murdered him. He waited for the police to finish searching the river near to where he lived and then dumped Dano’s body in a suitcase into the river thinking the police would not search it again. The even scarier thing is that this guy had a niece that disappeared 5 years earlier and the body was never found. He admitted to killing Dano, but denies having any involvement in her disappearance.
I have a daughter who is 5, and my wife and I have been mulling over the decision on whether she is old enough to go to the park, or even out and about in close proximity of the home, on her own. If I’m honest and if it were down to me, she would have an escort with her everywhere she goes until the day I die because I want to protect her from all the evil in the world. She is my little, vulnerable, fragile princess after all, no matter how much she wants to convince me otherwise. Besides, you just can’t ignore statistics like in 80% of all abductions involving strangers, first contact happens within a quarter of a mile of the family home and in the UK 66% of all paedophile abductions are carried out by people the child knows. Is no where safe?
We have taught her the stranger danger principles:
- Never accept gifts or sweets from a stranger.
- Never accept a lift in a car from a stranger.
- Never go anywhere with a stranger.
- Never go off on your own without telling a parent or trusted adult.
- Never go up to a car to give directions – keep away so that no one can get hold of you and you can run away.
- Always tell a trusted adult if you have been approached by a stranger.
- Remember the Yell, Run, Tell rule – it’s okay to run and scream if you find yourself in danger. Get away from the source of danger as fast as you can.
- If you find yourself in danger always run towards shops or other busy places with lots of people.
- If you think that you are being followed, go into a shop or knock on the door of a house and ask for help.
- Never play in dark or lonely places.
- Stay with your group of friends – never wander off on your own.
- Never agree to do a job for someone you don’t know in return for money – they may be trying to trick you.
- Make sure your parents know where you are going and when you will be back. If your plans change be sure to tell your parents.
But she is naive and far too innocent. She hasn’t had 33 years of cynicism beaten into her from repeated disappointments and surprises at just how low human kind can be. No matter how beautiful people are, there will always be the sick, the depraved and the downright evil, but how far do you go to protect your children from them and at what point do you have to let them make their own mistakes and just be there for them if it all goes wrong? I remember walking to catch the bus to school on my own when I was her age, but I wouldn’t dream of letting her do it. When I was 11, I was travelling from Glasgow to Dover via the London Underground, which in itself can be a daunting trip for an adult, yet alone a young child so naive that he was swindled by a London taxi driver out of his last £5.
I think for now, I will keep her wrapped in that metaphorical cotton wool blanket and let her have her innocence. I will continue to put up with the rolling eyes when I have to escort her and her friends to the park because their parents are happy to let them go on their own but I’m not. I’m happy to be the bad guy because she says I’m smothering her, because right now she is my baby and I am happier being the subject of her frustration, than the subject of a police media show trying to find my lost princess. I’ll keep doing this for now, because I’m not ready to take the risk of exposing her to the real world, but in 30 or 40 years, I might change my mind.
My question to you is at what age are you willing to let your children go off on their own? My thoughts are with Dano’s family, hopefully you will prove the statistics wrong, you will be the exception and Dano will arrive home, scared and shaken but safe.