Car was parked on road for days says man who reported incident to police

NEARBY: Farmer Mario Iafrate came across the vehicle and informed the police that it had been there for a few days. PICTURE: JEREMY BANNISTER

NEARBY: Farmer Mario Iafrate came across the vehicle and informed the police that it had been there for a few days. PICTURE: JEREMY BANNISTER

THE elderly man who discovered a car, in which a young couple were later found dead, said it had been parked there for days.

Alfredton resident Mario Iafrate and his wife Elena first saw the white 1980s station wagon three days before the bodies of Shannon Knowles, 24, and Jesse Scholes, 27, and a dog were found.

The car was parked on Smarts Hill Road in Cardigan, surrounded by litter, children’s toys and clothing and hidden behind bushes next to a barbed wire fence.

Mr Iafrate said he noticed it because the clothing sitting on the back of the car was flapping in the wind. 

But when he returned on Thursday afternoon, seeing the car parked in the same space, he sensed something was wrong.

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He said next to the parked station wagon was another car hidden by bushes with a person inside.

“I felt so strange, I said to my wife ‘that car is still there’,” Mr Iafrate said. 

“I went to get out of the car to take a look but as I got closer I couldn’t see through the windows to see what was in there. I looked in the other car next to it and I saw a head move.”

Mr Iafrate said he copied down the registration of the station wagon and reported the incident to police. 

He said when he learnt the fate of the couple he was devastated.

“You don’t know who could be inside of the car and I didn’t want to open the doors because I couldn’t see who was in there,” he said. “I am an old man and I had my wife with me. But now I wish I just opened that door. I wish I checked inside.”

Mr Iafrate said he had been shaken by the incident.

“I feel so terrible for the young people who were in there,” he said. 

“Nobody in this country should have to live like that.”

“I felt so strange, I said to my wife ‘that car is still there'." - Mario Iafrate

A shattered tinted car window is the only sign a car was ever there.

Mr Iafrate said the street where the car was found frequently had parked cars in it.

He uses the muddy, isolated, stretch of road often to check on his farmland property which is nearby, every few days.

Police believe a butane gas heater the pair had been using to keep warm may have contributed to their deaths.

A Victoria Police media spokeswoman would not comment on whether there was anybody present at the scene but said police were not interviewing anybody in relation to the deaths.

She said there were no suspicious circumstances and the matter was being investigated by the coroner who would prepare a report.

Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) executive manager Sharon Rainsbury said ESV investigators, at the request of Victoria Police, conducted tests on a butane camping heater and the vehicle’s heater.

Ms Rainsbury said further investigations would be carried out on Tuesday.

melissa.cunningham@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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