Melbourne Woods in the background:
Way back, well I really mean very way back, I was just about 10 years old and enjoying being an innocent boy in an untechnical world, so different from today. It was summer and I was in Melbourne Park, somewhere I went every day during th summer and most days in the winter too. I was with two junior school friends and we were playing on the edge of the Melbourne Woods, which is at the back of the park for the uninitiated. It was a mecca for us kids and we spent a lot of time there just hanging about, playing kick the can, when we were not at the Melbourne Junior School at the top of North Avenue in Chelmsford, Essex. This day I was with another boy, Terry I think, can’t remember, and a girl whose name I believe was Marie.
Occupied with playing we were unaware that someone had seen us untill we saw him arrive on a bike from behind but to the side of us. He braked fairly quick and jumped off the bike and headed straight towards the ditch that seperated us from the park. Jumping over it he came to the path in the woods that we were on and immediately staretd talking to us. It’s so long I cant really remember his exact words, but he went up to one of my friends, and said let’s all play a game. It was Marie of course, he seemed to try and avoid us boys. I still think he never actually saw us boys amongst the trees, just a young girl on her own. When he did realise we wer there too, he made something up about a game. He wanted Marie to go one way round he woods with him and for us two boys to go the opposite way and we would meet at the back of the woods. Stunned, and with something not quite right, we boys looked at each other and declined. Whether that was instinct I will never fathom. Anyway he still insisted, and as he was probably in his twenties or thirties, he started to go away from us, but very slowly and was hard for us little people to offend. We reluctently started off in the other direction. Still a bit unhappy, we hid behind a fallen tree and waited to see if he would go the other way round with Marie. They were at all times in our view though. I think we agreed not to go as he had said and waited to follow them if they went off. We were quite frightened at this point, but something told us that what was happening was not right. We were talking and he heard us, looked round and found us behind a tree. Exactly what he said I cant remember, but I believe he repeated his ‘go round the other way’ command. When it was obvious we were not going to do that he must have decided it was time to go and jumped back over the ditch, mounted his bike and off he went, never to be seen again. We, of course were relieved and wondering hat all that was about?
I forgot about it after the weekend and was sitting in my class on the Mondasy or maybe Tuesday, when I was summoned to the headmaster’s office. Had no idea what for, I had done nothing wrong that morning, although I cannot say I had never been summoned before! Well, I entered the room and as well as the Head, there were two other adults there. They were not introduced to me I dont believe. The head recalled the day in the woods and could I tell these people what exactly had happened. So I told them what I have just written above. They asked a few questions, can’t recall what though. The Head said I had done the right thing, but I did not exactly know what he meant. When I had finished I was sent back to class. A few minutes later the other boy Terry, was called out of class. At break we said what had happened and left it at that. Thought no more of it and got on with being a boy. Never mentioned it again to Marie, didn’t seem important. Now I realise that the adults were police officers and that Marie’s mum must have contacted the police about it. Never crossed my mind to tell my parents.
The next day, at assembly, the head made some sort of statement about not going with older men without permission, etc. It then clicked it was the incident in Melboure Woods that had caused this and felt quite guilty, even if I had not not directly named. No one after that week ever mentioned it. Never told my parents, it did not seem important for a 10 year old, more interested in the Test cricket scores than personal safety. I have though, always remembered it and wondered did we boys save the girl’s life or integrity? Did we all escape some mad man’s grasp? Who knows, but I have never forgetten the event, even if I may never tell anyone about it again!