Police last night arrested a man following a 12-hour manhunt across western Victoria.
A 34-year-old South Australian man was allegedly trying to steal a car in Main Street, Bealiba, when he was arrested about 7pm. The owner of the car was assaulted during the attempted theft and received minor injuries.
The armed offender had spent the day on the run after a terrifying morning for residents in small communities between Stawell and Melbourne.
A man allegedly threatened one woman with a knife in Concongella, east of Stawell before stealing her car, and then another person with a sledgehammer, before escaping on foot through the hills at Rathscar, north of Avoca.
Detective Senior Constable Caroline Blackley said the first victim was threatened with a knife at 6am.
“A male has gone to an address in Concongella, he’s knocked on the door saying he was lost, and then he’s produced a knife,” Senior Constable Blackley said.
“He’s then threatened the victim with a knife and stolen her vehicle, he’s then driven to an address at Rathscar where he’s tried to steal another vehicle.
“He’s then produced a sledgehammer and then taken off in the original car through another property.”
The car was located about 1.5km further down McArdle’s Lane in a paddock where the car had become tangled in fences but the man had fled on foot.
Police units from as far away as Ballarat and Horsham, including the airwing and dog squad, spent much of the day searching for the man.
Police said it was believed he may have been from South Australia and could have been heading to Craigieburn in Melbourne.
Police were also late yesterday investigating whether an attempted car break in at Avoca at 4am was linked.
Locals said it had been a terrifying morning.
Farmer Chris said it had scared everyone in the area.
“We’re just trying to keep on going with our work, but we’re just looking over our backs all the time,” he said.
“It’s very scary and hopefully they catch him.”
Another, property owner John, whose paddock was one of those the offender drove through, said it was frightening there was a “desperate and dangerous man” in the area.
“There’s not many houses in this Rathscar area, so it’s pretty concerning,” he said.
“He’s still in the area, that is the bottom line. It’s a bit of a worry.
There are skid marks up on the hill everywhere, he’s been through four fences.”