Father tells police how he fought off man near his son

ALARMED Ben Hobby and his partner Alicia Jacob with Ben's nephew Brandon Wheeler, 10, and their son Louie Hobby, one. Brandon raised the alarm when an intruder was seen near Louie in the back garden. Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (122557-2)
ALARMED Ben Hobby and his partner Alicia Jacob with Ben's nephew Brandon Wheeler, 10, and their son Louie Hobby, one. Brandon raised the alarm when an intruder was seen near Louie in the back garden. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (122557-2)

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A FATHER has told police of the moment he saw a hooded man trying to snatch his one-year-old son from his back garden.

Dad Ben Hobby says he ran into the garden of his home in Ludlow Road, Paulsgrove, as he heard his son Louie screaming and his nephew Brandon Wheeler, 10, calling out his name.

Mr Hobby says he saw a hooded man, dressed in dark clothing, leaning over a wall and grabbing Louie’s arms as he stood on a ledge.

He says he hit the intruder with a metal bar from his garden to free Louie, and the offender ran off down a lane which borders the side of the garden.

‘It all happened in a shot, it was terrifying,’ the 22-year-old dad said.

‘Louie was screaming and crying his eyes out, and Brandon was worried he was going to come back again.

‘It took a good while to settle Louie down after that. He must’ve been so scared.

‘I can’t imagine what that must’ve been like for him.

‘You just don’t expect something like that to happen in your own garden, it’s every parent’s worst nightmare.’

Mum Alicia Jacob, 21, arrived home from a trip to Cosham around five minutes after the incident happened at 12.40pm on Monday.

‘I was so angry when I found out what happened,’ she said.

‘I took the dog and went out looking for him.’

Ben phoned the police and an investigation was promptly launched.

Miss Jacob added: ‘I didn’t think anything like that would ever happen to us, and the fact that it was in our garden feels like an invasion of privacy.

‘Louie still wants to play out there but I’m not comfortable with it any more.

‘Years ago you could let kids play in the street or in the park on their own but now you can’t even let them out in your own garden, it’s unreal.’

Officers carried out house-to-house inquiries in the neighbourhood, which are still ongoing, to establish and develop a number of leads.

Detective Inspector Christopher Parry, of Portsmouth CID, said: ‘This remains a particularly complex and delicate investigation as we attempt to establish the intentions of a man seen near this child.

‘We are working closely with his family to confirm the complete circumstances surrounding this allegation. Officers are taking statements from witnesses.

‘We’re grateful for the assistance of relatives and residents in sharing information with us in our efforts to protect this child and the community while we gathered possible evidence.’

Police dispelled rumours of other attempted abductions, confirming this was an isolated event and that they have no increased concerns for the safety of other children.

Portsmouth District Chief Inspector Steve Burridge said: ‘We would like to reassure the community that there remains no evidence of an increased risk to other children.

‘This allegation is being treated as an isolated report. No patterns of similar crimes have been identified.

‘Police would always ask the public to remain alert, but not alarmed in informing us of any suspicious behaviour.’

Anyone with information should contact CID at Fratton police station on 101 quoting Operation Bluefield.

n A 21-year-old man, of no fixed address, has been arrested and bailed until September 28 in connection with the incident.