PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. — Martial arts training might not be the first thing a daycare worker would list on a resume, but six youngsters in central British Columbia are safe because the operator of their pre-school used those skills this week.
Chelsi Sabbe, the owner of a licensed daycare in Prince George, says she reacted Tuesday when a man allegedly tried to grab two children in her care.
Sabbe said in an interview Thursday she was concerned when she saw a man approaching two children playing in a park. When a four-year-old boy was snatched, she began screaming and leaped on the man's back to try to pull the child away.
"I wasn't letting him get away with one of those kids," said Sabbe, whose father was a kickboxing and mixed martial arts instructor.
"As a child I did judo and karate and kickboxing," she added.
Sabbe said she managed to free the boy and urged him and the other children to safety, but the man then grasped the arm of a second boy. He punched her as she rushed forward again, she said.
Sabbe said she ordered the children, all under six, to take shelter in a nearby house.
She said she pulled the man by the hair, kneed him in the face and then held him in a headlock until she was certain the children were safe.
The fight caught the attention of a neighbour who called police.
The RCMP said when they arrived a man fled through a baseball field where he was arrested.
Shortly after the arrest, police received a report of an earlier abduction attempt just a few blocks away. A man had tried to grab a boy who was with his mother, but the woman managed to get her son back and returned home, police said.
The suspect fit the same description of the man police had just arrested, they said in a news release on Tuesday.
A 35-year-old man from Prince George has been charged with two counts of kidnapping, and one count each of assault and obstructing a peace officer.
Sabbe brushed off her actions as something that just came naturally.
"I love my daycare children like I love my own children and if somebody is trying to harm them and you are given no other (option), that is my own defence mechanism," she said.
"I got a few punches to the head and I've got bruises on my arm, but other than that, I'm OK."
She said she had to take a few days off to help with the investigation and other issues, but the children will be back in her care on Friday and there will be a revised safety plan.
Sabbe will now carry her cellphone in a pouch around her waist after losing her mobile during the first scuffle.
All of the children were unharmed and Sabbe said they are doing well.
"They've got some stories I'm sure. I'm looking forward to seeing them all. I miss them."
— By Beth Leighton in Vancouver
The Canadian Press