Oct 21 – Outback father-and-son bandits the Stoccos were able to flee interstate and cause havoc despite bashing a police sergeant in Queensland three months ago, some of their frustrated victims have told Fairfax Media.
Gino and Mark Stocco were reported to have last been seen in a stolen white Toyota landcruiser utility heading north on the Hume Highway on Monday, after getting fuel at an Euroa service station in north-east Victoria. The 58-year-old father and his 38-year-old son have spent eight years on the run from police.
A spokeswoman provided details of a recent assault on police involving the Stoccos. She said the assault had allegedly occurred after a man was reported to have stolen something at a grocery store in Scott Street, St George, at about 12pm on June 14.
The man threw a bottle at a police officer who called on him to stop.
Police believe Mark and Gino Stocco have stolen this Toyota Landcruiser Photo: NSW Police
“The officer apprehended the man and a struggle ensued. Another man arrived in a vehicle and has begun assaulting the officer,” she said. “The two men then fled the scene. Warrants were issued for the arrest of both.”
The spokeswoman said the offenders were placed on a Crime Stoppers most wanted list and media releases were issued.
Mr Redding said he was told that the policeman was set upon by the younger Stocco, Mark, who was then assisted by his father Gino in the assault on the officer.
The assault is just the latest in a lengthy list of crimes undertaken by the pair as they roamed for eight years across a remote rural zone stretching from north Queensland to Victoria.
It was only on Friday that the Stoccos became the target of a major police operation code named Strike Force Kalkadoon after they were alleged to have fired two shots at police near Wagga Wagga.
On Monday, police revealed the pair had been were seen on foot near the Wagga Wagga shooting but were then suspected of stealing the white 2013 white Toyota landcruiser utility with a white bullbar from a farm near Holbrook, about 50km north-east of Albury.
Victims who are in regular contact with the police also say the officers believe the men to be in possession of a number of weapons.
Mr Redding said the Stoccos had stolen his high-powered, centre-fire rifle that could shoot accurately out to 600m.
Another victim, Donna Tidswell, whose central western NSW property was hit last year, said she had been told that the Stoccos were now running around with a semi-automatic ex-military firearm.
“I don’t know where it (the gun) has come from but when I asked a detective (about whether the weapon was a semi-auto), she said ‘yes absolutely’,” said Ms Tidswell, who had three sheds burned down and holes drilled in 72 tyres of vehicles on the property.
The weapon is thought to be a semi-automatic SKS carbine – a Chinese-made military rifle that looks and shoots like an AK-47.
Ms Tidswell’s family did not employ the Stoccos, but had bought a NSW property where the pair resided as caretakers in 2011. She said the Stoccos had apparently been asked to leave their accommodation on the property by the previous owners. At the time, she said, the Stoccos had reportedly left in the middle of the night, cut all the water pipes and stolen all the keys to vehicles.
She said last year after her family bought the property, it was again attacked by the Stoccos in a late night raid even though they had no connection to the previous owners.
Ms Tidswell said her son had been staying on the property when the Stocco’s dropped in late at night.
“He heard the dogs barking and he looked out and saw someone with a drip torch like those used by firemen to back burn, walking around lighting fires,” she said.
“He ran out but they drove away in the silver vehicle. He managed to a get a number plate but they were stolen plates – stolen from a carpark the night before.
“They (the Stoccos) had let petrol out of the tanks and poured petrol into the vehicles before they lit the fire. It was so much damage.”
Ms Tidswell said she believed the Stocccos would not be easy to to catch.
“They know they are going to jail now so are going to go down fighting,” she said.
Yesterday, Special Operations Group officers rushed to Glenburn after a witness contacted police to report spotting the Landcruiser driving south along the Melba Highway at 8.52am.
Last night, the SOG unit’s armoured BearCat vehicle travelled to the command post.
The survivalists were equipped with two firearms — one believed to be so powerful it could penetrate a bulletproof vest — and camping gear.
“The Stoccos are believed to be armed and dangerous. They have previously fired shots at police with a high-powered rifle,” police said.
Gino’s father, Peter Stocco, said yesterday: “I’m Gino’s father, but I can’t say anything. You don’t know how long I haven’t seen him for. I’m disappointed.
“I can’t imagine (the situation they are in).”
Clint Ashton, who went to school with Mark, said: “Considering they are shooting at cops, I honestly think that they would rather go down fighting than hand themselves in.
“That’s no way to live your life but I think his dad may have been a bad influence on him (Mark).
“Hopefully, it does not end badly. But I can’t see it ending good.
“I would have never suspected him to do something like this. He was definitely a good kid in school.”
Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton warned that anyone spotting the pair should not approach them, but should call triple-0 immediately.
After they fired shots at police in Wagga Wagga, they travelled south to Little Billabong where on Sunday, they stole the Landcruiser.
On Monday, CCTV cameras in Euroa caught them filling up on fuel.
There was also a reported sighting of the pair in Violet Town on Tuesday.
Insp Campbell said the Critical Incident Response team was on standby.
FUGITIVE NOMADS RUN FREE
EVEN those who know father-and-son fugitives Gino and Mark Stocco describe them as “mystery men”.
Despite committing crimes along the entire east coast, they have evaded police for a staggering eight years while leading a nomadic existence without phones, bank or social media accounts.
One source described them as tough, disciplined and focused on staying free.
It all seems to have begun in 2003, when Gino’s marriage broke down.
Using $100,000 from the divorce settlement, he bought a yacht.
Father and son spent three years voyaging along the eastern and southern seaboards, cheating people they met by using the victims’ personal documents to obtain credit cards, mobile phones and bank loans.
Victims included a minister whose identity they assumed and a soldier who was serving in Iraq.
They were eventually picked up by police in Apollo Bay, in Victoria’s southwest, on December 21, 2006, after a $2000 burglary at Port Fairy Yacht Club.
A magistrate sentenced Gino to four months’ jail and fined him $2400. Mark was sentenced to two months’ jail and fined $600.
Mark had also been found guilty of robbing his mum in a carpark in 2004.
Police say the pair travels by night, when they strike.
Sources marvel that they have remained close, despite being together constantly for eight years and having no other relationships.
One police officer said a victim’s assessment that the pair were “stupid” was off the mark. He said they worked well together, were loyal to one another, and had stories prepared in case of arrest.
“They’re quite cunning. They’re quite smart,” the officer said.
“They stay under the radar. That gives them opportunities. People trust them. They know what they’re doing,” he said.