Ottawa police are searching for a male suspect driving a red SUV after a 16-year-old girl was allegedly forced into a vehicle, sexually assaulted, and abducted during a brazen daytime attack in Barrhaven.

Police say the teenager was walking on Tartan Drive at about 9:45 a.m. Tuesday when she was apparently approached by an unknown male in an older model red SUV.

The man apparently asked for directions. When the girl stopped to offer help, police say she was forced into the vehicle where she was allegedly sexually assaulted. The man also had a gun.

Police say the man drove the girl to the Fallowfield Road Park and Ride before letting her go. He then drove away.

Sgt. Jeff Webster says he believes the girl's life was threatened and police have increased security in the neighbourhood.

"It is certainly a concerning event for the community of Barrhaven and a very much concern to the Ottawa Police Service," he said.

In 2005, Ottawa teenager Jennifer Teague was abducted and murdered in the same neighbourhood. However, her killer is behind bars.

Police are now asking young women and girls to be cautious of people approaching them, especially males who approach teenaged girls for directions. Police are offering the following tips:

  • Be alert; don't use headphones
  • Buddy up with a friend rather than walking alone
  • Get attention if you feel uneasy by screaming or making a scene
  • Make sure you have a cellphone
  • Call police if you hear or see anything suspicious

School boards are also making sure parents and students are aware of the incident. The Ottawa Catholic School Board sent out a letter to parents and the Ottawa-Carleton Public School Board made an announcement.

Despite the seriousness of the incident, investigators say this type of attack is rare.

"It's something we're not used to seeing for sure and something that's getting a lot of police attention by way of investigation," Webster said.

Suspect description

The young victim was able to give police a detailed description of her attacker. He is described as a man in his 40s with light brown or olive skin. Police say he spoke English with a French accent.

The suspect is about five feet six inches tall, with a medium build and dark, shaggy, ear-length hair.

He was wearing a beige suede coat, blue jeans, work boots and glasses with thin black rims. He was also wearing a gold wedding band.

The vehicle is described as an older model red four-door SUV, similar to a Ford Escape or Ford Explorer. It is equipped with winter tires and no hub caps. There was no license plate on the front of the vehicle.

Police say the vehicle had two front bucket seats. The rear seats had been removed at the time of the attack.

Anyone with information about the attack is asked to contact the Ottawa Police Service Sexual Assault/Child Abuse Unit at 613-236-1222, ext. 5944 or Crime Stoppers at 613-233-8477 (TIPS).

With a report from CTV Ottawa's Catherine Lathem