Australian town welcomes little girl found safe after man ‘obsessed’ with her found

SOLO, Australia — A stranger charged with abducting a 4-year-old girl from a park in a small Australian town has been identified by police as a psychiatric patient who spoke “notorious” martial arts and had become “obsessed” with children.

The girl’s mother was arrested in a park Saturday in the town of Solo, located about 160 miles northwest of the capital, Canberra, on suspicion of child abduction, the Press Association of Australia reports. She remains in custody and has not been named.

Officers said the girl’s disappearance prompted one of the largest search operations the remote town has ever seen. In an effort to reach her, a drone flew over the town while officers searched streets and waterways. A helicopter kept an eye on the River Murray.

The girl’s father earlier urged the stranger to hand his daughter back.

“This is not good enough. Do the right thing,” he wrote on Facebook. “You’re not watching TV, you’re not playing the phone game. Do the right thing and return your daughter to us before she gets hurt.”

The Melbourne man alleged that the man had been coming to the town in the past two weeks to confront him.

“He speaks fluent Spanish, French and English, knows about Thai martial arts, has a briefcase containing photographic and video documentation of children and has talked about witchcraft and witchcraft potions,” he said.

The girl’s mother “has become obsessed with children … subjecting herself to psychiatric treatment in Australia,” the father said.

Her mother was a volunteer case worker for a mental health center in the town, police said.

Otare Hatton, a member of a Christian community in town, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that he believes the man had the family’s permission to carry out the abduction.

“He said he was doing it for the greater glory of God,” he said.

Police identified the man charged with child abduction and breach of bail as Kai Etson Foye, a 30-year-old with no fixed address. Police described him as an “outsider.”

Police commissioner Graham Ashton said the man was reported to have mental health issues, having been detained by mental health staff about three weeks ago, the ABC reports.

“He’s had recent contact with police, voluntarily, been assessed … he has been taken into custody,” Ashton said, speaking in a press conference Saturday night.

He added: “He does have criminal background. It does appear that there was a lack of input from other family members.”

Local media reported that Foye had become enthralled with a 4-year-old boy and his family, following them on social media and befriending them through their involvement with a Christian charity, Australian Christian Children’s Fund.

The boy’s mother later asked police to search the suspect’s home for the child, but she was not in the home and contacted police instead, the ABC reported.

“She said that when she contacted us he had cut up her socks and put them in the bin and she rang us because that’s not a normal thing to do,” Ashton said.

Police have not confirmed the relationship between the man and the family. The girl was not present at the house at the time of the raid.

The 40-person search included 40 officers from the Major Crime Squad. They covered the town in unmarked vehicles, and the air support was boosted by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority. The girl was found in the bush, not far from where she was abducted.

“She was released from her backpack and she was led into the bush. She was escorted to that point by a man and was in good condition,” the commissioner said.

He said the girl was “relieved” and was set to be reunited with her family.

Police said the father did not want the attention or emotions surrounding the incident to be diverted.

“We just want to focus our energies on our child and to help the family heal,” police said in a statement.

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