Editor’s note: This article originally stated police were called at 10:30 a.m. The error was updated to say police were called at 10:30 p.m.
A 39-year-old man has been charged in connection with several sexual assaults that occurred at the West Edmonton Mall World Waterpark over the weekend.
Police were called to the waterpark at around 10:30 p.m. Saturday.
Officers allege a man followed and inappropriately touched six teenage girls while they were swimming at the waterpark.
“It’s fairly shocking,” EPS spokesperson Scott Pattison said. “It’s involved and traumatized six individuals and their families.”
Pattison said all six girls were under the age of 16.
“The girls were very courageous in coming forward and talking to the lifeguard, that’s not always the case,” Pattison said.
“It’s very traumatizing and I’m sure it made them feel extremely vulnerable so they deserve our support.”
Police arrested a man on scene and took him into custody.
The waterpark was booked out by the Non-Academic Staff Association (NASA) at the time. The association represents non-academic staff working on the University of Alberta campus.
Nancy Furlong with NASA said the man was not a member of the association. She also said that while the organization had the waterpark booked, there were other people at the facility at the time who were not part of their group.
Furlong said a note was sent out to everyone who purchased tickets through NASA informing them of what happened.
Pattison said police believe there are other complainants and he’s urging them to come forward.
The Zebra Child Protection Centre, which offers support to children who have experienced abuse, stressed the importance of reporting child abuse, believing that child and being there to support them.
“Child abuse is probably one of the most under-reported crimes in the community,” said Lauren Andrews, with the Zebra Child Protection Centre. “So it’s really up to us as the community, as a whole, to be the eyes and ears of the city of Edmonton to make sure that these children and these survivors of child abuse are getting the support that they need.”
Soleimen Soleimen Hajj, a Syrian refugee and father of six, has since been charged with six counts of sexual assault and six counts of sexual interference.
The Edmonton Police Service Zebra Child Protection Section has taken over the investigation.
Anyone who may have witnessed anything unusual at the pool on Saturday is asked to contact the EPS at 780-423-4567 or #377 from a mobile phone. Anonymous information can be submitted to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or online.