The man was later interviewed by gardai over the incident outside that occurred outside the girl’s home in Arden View in Tullamore, Co Offaly on Sunday evening.
It is alleged that the man, who was dressed in all-black “military-style gear” picked up the child, who is unknown to him, as she was playing on the street near her home.
Three brave teenagers, who were across the road, spotted what they said was the little girl struggling to get away from the man – and they ran into the child’s home to alert her father, who then confronted him.
And in an exclusive interview, the brave father told how the alleged attempted-abductor ultimately ran away from him – and he was forced to give chase.
“Basically the kids were all out playing on the street about five o’clock, quarter past five,” the shocked dad said.
“Three young girls came over to me from the other side of the road and said some man is after picking my child up and she’s struggling to get away from him.
“She went to run away and he grabbed her by the arm. He ran away, but we cornered him and called the guards.
“It all happened just like that,” he said.
On Monday night, gardai confirmed that a man in his 30s was being held in Tullamore Garda Station under Section 17 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, 1997.
Gardai released the man without charge – with a file due to sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
It is also understood that gardai are keeping an open mind about the incident after the arrested man suggested that he picked the child up because she was crying.
The terrified father, who asked for his name not to be used in this interview, pointed to us the spot where his young daughter was sitting on the ground – in the company of other kids – when the alleged incident occurred.
Several witnesses allege they saw the man, who is not known to the child, approach her and pick her up – and the girl tried to get away.
The dad said: “He saw my daughter sitting on the ground here, he approached her and he picked her up.
“One of the girls said she saw a man picking her up and saw a bit of a struggle going on. The child pulled away from him and she went running for the girls.
“When I confronted him after that I asked him what he was doing and he couldn’t explain it. Then he ran away and we went after him.”
The father, with the help of neighbours, managed to detain the man in a garden, where they say he hid behind a jeep.
“He ran into a house here. My friend and three or four other people went after him. He hid behind a jeep and we kept him in there. We cordoned it off until the guards came,” he said.
And speaking of how his daughter is coping since the terrifying incident, the father said: “Look, she’s OK. She’s a little bit shook alright, and she knows. The guards were talking to her already.
“They more or less took a statement from the child.”
He also told how he now fears for his child’s safety – and how the incident has sent shockwaves around the neighbourhood.
“I do fear for her now. I lived here all my life. I was born and reared there. Kids always play here.
“This is the first time anything like this has ever happened. It’s scary.
“This has never happened. To be honest it’s after sending shockwaves around the place. Like you’re always very confident here with the kids. They are always outside,” he explained.
Another family member told how the man was wearing all-black, which was an unusual sight in the quiet neighbourhood.
“He had black, almost military-style clothes on. I’ve never seen anyone walking around here like that in my life.
“Why did he run away? He ran away when this happened. He left marks on her wrists as well,” she said.
“It’s just so strange, it’s unbelievable. She was very brave to get away because she wiggled to get out of him you know?
“She was very out of sort yesterday. The guards came and took her clothes this morning for forensics as well,” she said.
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Gardai say the investigation into the incident is ongoing.
A spokesperson said: “Gardaí in Offaly are investigating an alleged incident that took place just after 6pm on 21st March 2021 at Arden View in Tullamore.
“A man, aged in his 30s, has been arrested in connection with this incident and he is currently detained at Tullamore Garda Station under Section 17 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, 1997.”