THE theft of cars and their use in petrol drive-offs, theft and a carjacking in Frankston and surrounding suburbs highlights the everyday threat to residents posed by crime gangs.
And it’s prompted a warning from a Frankston detective: Make sure your front door is locked at all times and hide your car keys – especially overnight – as the current trend is for youth gang members to steal cars for crime sprees.
The gangs – with one prominent group known as Apex – call it ‘missioning’. Two or three gang members are tasked with breaking into houses to steal car and house keys and other valuables, before driving off in the victim’s car. It doesn’t matter whether the gang members have a licence – or are even old enough to drive.
And that’s having tragic consequences.
In one incident, a Carrum Downs woman was struck head-on by a stolen 2013 BMW X5 allegedly being driven by a 15-year-old Patterson Lakes boy, as she drove to work along Governor Rd, 7.39am, Monday 9 November.
Amanda Matheson, 47, was taken by ambulance to The Alfred hospital with multiple leg fractures and serious chest and neck injuries, but complications caused her life support system to be switched off, Thursday 12 November.
In a sad coincidence, it is believed she had been a friend of the late Andrea Lehane, also of Carrum Downs, who was killed after being struck by an illegal monkey bike outside the Carrum Downs shopping centre in September.
The $90,000 BMW – stolen during a house burglary in Doncaster on 4 November – was allegedly being driven at speed on the wrong side of the road by the boy who may have links to crime gangs. The vehicle had been involved in a series of offences since being stolen, including petrol drive-offs, theft of alcohol from a Frankston liquor outlet and a carjacking in Frankston South.
In the carjacking, up to five men allegedly rammed a car in Bartlett St and allegedly threatened the driver with a shotgun and handgun before driving off in his Ford XR6, 2.40am, Friday 6 November.
That car, too, has since been involved in a series of crimes and is being sought by Frankston police.
The boy allegedly ran from the Governor Rd scene and was arrested a short time later at the Chelsea Heights McDonald’s restaurant. He spent the night at Dandenong hospital before being charged with conduct endangering life and serious traffic offences at Frankston police station.
He was remanded in custody to appear at Frankton Children’s Court on 26 November.
Following the death of Mrs Matheson he is now facing the more serious charges of reckless conduct placing a person in danger of death, reckless conduct placing a person in danger of serious injury, driving in a dangerous manner and other traffic matters. He was also charged with aggravated burglary and several motor car thefts. His case is being overseen by the Major Crime Investigation Unit.
Frankston detectives are also seeking a stolen $150,000 red Mercedes Benz stolen from Sandringham overnight, Wednesday 4 November, and seen at several crime scenes in Frankston, Cranbourne, Narre Warren and Dandenong, along with the red Ford and, previously, the stolen BMW, which are all suspected of being used by gang members.
The BMW was used in a petrol drive-off at the Seaford Rd United service station, 1am, Sunday 8 November.
Detective Leading Senior Constable Paul Roberts, of Frankston’s Embona Task Force, said Mrs Matheson was a “much-loved woman with strong family and employer support”.
Her death has highlighted how crime can affect innocent people going about their daily routines and how close we can be to danger – usually without knowing it.
Detective Roberts said the stolen cars have all been used for gang-related crime, with the Mercedes and the BMW seen at up to 10 petrol drive-offs, as well as the theft of liquor from Heatherhill Rd Cellars. The Ford has been seen at other incidents.
In the liquor outlet raid, Sunday 8 November, two youths entered the store and helped themselves to $315 in beer and spirits, while the dumbfounded proprietor stood by helplessly. A third person sat outside in the BMW ready to drive them away.
The next day the same car was involved in the fatal collision at Mordialloc.
One of the alleged offenders, 16, of Keysborough, has since been arrested and charged with theft of alcohol and theft of the BMW. He was bailed to appear at a children’s court at a later date. His accomplice, still at large last Wednesday but known to police, is thought to be related to the 15 year old arrested over Mrs Matheson’s death.