'Disgusting': Sickening assault hits families close to home
TOURISTS enjoyed the sunshine and watched their carefree children play at the park yesterday, completely unaware of the horror that unfolded just metres from their picnic spot weeks earlier.
A usually serene spot at Coolum now felt "eerie" to stroll through after news that a child was sexually assaulted in public toilets at the popular holiday spot spread through the community.
The morning of January 4, Tiffany Noble was at Tickle Park with her family enjoying the markets. It was a usually busy event with plenty of families attending.
Ms Noble learned that afternoon a four-year-old Sunshine Coast girl wandered into a unisex toilet block alone. A man entered and sexually assaulted her.
"It's horrible to think we were there that morning," she said.
"The community is completely shocked and saddened - we just can't believe it."
Officer in charge of the Child Protection and Investigation Unit, Senior Sergeant Phil Hurst said the girl wandered away from her family and into the toilet alone between 4.30pm and 5.30pm that Friday afternoon.
She returned to her family and told her parents who contacted police the following day.
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Ms Noble, mum to seven-month-old Laken, moved to the quiet area from Caloundra about six months ago and frequented the Coolum markets often.
"That Friday it was particularly busy. With so many people around, if a child slipped out of sight even for a second it would be panic," she said.
"Everyone has talked about it and can't believe somebody is capable of that.
"It's disgusting to know it happened in our backyard."
Ms Noble and friend, Kristy Brunswick were walking through Tickle Park yesterday with their young children, saying they couldn't help but feel "eerie".
"It makes you a little uneasy," Ms Brunswick said.
"You can never be too safe but it really makes you unsure what your next step should be."
For police, their next step was to catch the man responsible.
After exhausting all witnesses and CCTV efforts, police were urging the community to help find the man before he acted again.
"It's very concerning that this has happened in our area," Snr Sgt Hurst said.
"When anyone commits such a brazen act against a child... there is also the risk it could happen again."
Snr Sgt Hurst urged parents to take all necessary precautions in public places.
Although a specific description of the man was not able to be provided by the victim, he was believed to have white or light coloured hair, wearing shorts and a t-shirt.
Police asked the public to come forward if they saw anything suspicious at Tickle Park that afternoon.
They also asked anyone who drove past the area that afternoon who may have dash cam footage to contact Policelink on 131 444.