A senior policeman said officers feared a girl who was kidnapped in Northampton was going to be killed.
Last week, Jason Watts was sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum term of seven years and two months, for the abduction and rape of a 10-year-old girl in Northampton.
Watts, aged 32, was arrested at a house in Semilong, on August 29 within an hour of snatching the girl from an area of Northampton.
Speaking to the Chronicle & Echo, Deputy Chief Constable Martin Jelley said: “What has touched everybody is the horrific nature of something like this happening to a child in our community.
“My reflection on it on the day and since has been that while these incidents are incredibly rare, we can all think of cases around the country where children have been abducted in similar circumstances and where they haven’t been found as quickly. Tragically so often that has ended up with the offender panicking perhaps about the magnitude of what they have done and then taking the lives of the children involved.
“None of us know what Watts’ intentions were when he was stopped that day, but clearly there was a possibility that something worse could have happened. Which is why it was so important to find him and the little girl so quickly.
“Clearly we hoped he would go to prison for a long time and won’t have the opportunity to do this to a child.”
He added: “I know the investigative team have ensured every single avenue he could have used to try to wriggle out of this had been shut off to ensure justice was done.”
DCC Jelley said he was very impressed by the courage shown by the victim and her family throughout the investigation .
Mr Jelley said Watts’ prosecution would have been far more difficult otherwise.
He said: “These incidents are thankfully incredibly rare. This one sticks in the mind simply because it was such a horrific one on August 29.
“To anyone, a parent or otherwise, this is your worst nightmare.
“A child being abducted and then sexually assaulted in such a horrific manner is everybody’s worst nightmare, particularly every parent’s.
“I think Watts is an incredibly evil man to do what he did to this 10-year-old girl.
“She has been, from what I understand, an incredibly brave little girl and I want to pay tribute to her.
“Words fail to capture the depth of the upset this must gave caused to the little girl and her family.
“One of the most important things is to allow them to rebuild their lives the best they can, given the ordeal she has been subjected to.
“I really want to pay tribute to them for the bravery they showed in what you can only imagine would have been horrific.
“Without her co-operation, this sort of prosecution could have been difficult.”