THE retirement holiday dreams of an elderly Patterson Lakes couple have been shattered by a “wannabe rastafarian” thief who stole their $70,000 caravan from the driveway of their home in broad daylight.
Ron and Leonie Higman were just days from setting off on a three-month outback holiday adventure to Darwin when their fully loaded Jayco Sterling caravan was stolen on Thursday 10 July.
Not only was the caravan locked and secured at the top of their driveway by a wheel clamp, tow-bar lock and wheel chocks, the couple was also at home just metre away in their back garden when the brazen thief struck around midday.
Neighbours even saw the wig-wearing dreadlocked thief in action atop the caravan earlier in the morning but assumed he must be a workman carrying out repairs for the couple.
Mr Bagman, 72, said that while the caravan, which they had bought in January, was insured, “our peace of mind, our time, six months of planning, are not”.
“This has knocked the wind out of our sails; we’re devastated,” he said.
“He’s stolen more than just our caravan, he’s stolen our holiday and our sense of security.
“The caravan was fully loaded and ready to go with all our food, clothes, books, cameras – everything we needed for the next couple of months.
“But that’s all gone now. That’s it as far as our holiday goes. We’ll have to start again from scratch.”
Kingston police believe the robbery was the work of a “serial caravan thief” who has been active in Melbourne’s outer suburbs and have urged caravan owners to be vigilant.
However, detectives are optimistic the man will soon be apprehended after obtaining clear descriptions of his “unusual” appearance and CCTV footage of the “distinctive” four-wheel drive utility he has been driving.
Footage of the thief driving off with the Bagman’s caravan was captured by a neighbour’s security camera, while further footage was obtained following two unsuccessful robbery attempts in Monbulk two weeks earlier.
Police said the man stole number plates from a vehicle at a Rowville golf course to use to disguise his getaway vehicle on 30 June.
He then drove to a house on Old Emerald Rd in Monbulk where he hitched a $50,000 caravan to his ute about 3.50pm.
However, the female owner arrived home just in time, catching the would-be thief as he was about to drive off. After being confronted by the owner, the man quickly unhitched the caravan and took off.
It’s believed the same man targeted a caravan advertised for sale in Fairydale Rd about five hours later.
The man made arrangements to see the caravan about 6pm but failed to turn up. The owner later noticed a car pull into his driveway about 9pm.
After being asked what he was doing, the man said he wanted to test whether he could hook the caravan up to his car.
The owner told the man to leave, which he did.
Detective Sergeant Mick Coughlan of Kingston crime investigation unit said police were hopeful members of the public would be able to help identify the thief.
“He’s been seen by a few people now so we’ve been able to obtain a pretty good description of his appearance, as well as footage of the vehicle he’s been driving,” Sergeant Couglan said.
“He’s a short, slim Caucasian male aged 30-40, about 160 centimetres tall, clean shaven and with a bald, or shaven head. He seems to have a thing for wigs. He’s been seen wearing a brown wig and then later a dark dreadlock wig.
“But it’s the vehicle which is our clearest lead. It’s very distinctive, a white dual-cab 4×4 utility with a silver tray and spare wheel and jerry can behind the cabin, and a roof rack on top.
“So we’d ask anyone who’s seen a vehicle fitting this description or whose seen any suspicious activities in either area around the time of the incidents to contact police as quickly as possible.”
Call Kingston crime investigation unit on 9556 6565 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. Further information and images are available at www.vicpolicenews.com.au/news/4036-wannabe-rastafarian-serial-caravan-thief