Seven years, 24 crimes at La Maison

La Maison cafe owner Wassim Saliba is getting desperate after yet another break-in. Picture: JOHN RUSSELL

La Maison cafe owner Wassim Saliba is getting desperate after yet another break-in. Picture: JOHN RUSSELL

A FALSE alarm at midnight convinced Wassim Saliba his popular restaurant wasn’t being broken into four hours later when the alarm sounded again.

He got that wrong.

Security footage shows two burly men kicking in the front door of La Maison Cafe at Gateway Island in Wodonga.

In the end it made little difference — he knows from long and bitter experience that he could have done nothing to stop a determined crook.

The burglary was the 24th criminal act he has had in the seven years that he has run the business.

EDITORIAL: Thieves dish up cafe pain

Most were burglaries, attempted break-ins and mindless criminal damage.

“We know exactly what happened,” a despondent and upset Mr Saliba said as he readied himself for a big lunchtime booking.

“The alarm went off at 4am this morning, but I didn’t take any note of it because we had a false alarm four hours before that.

“They were efficient and knew just what they were doing.

“They got in and out within 35 seconds.”

Yesterday morning crime scene police were on scene dusting for fingerprints and other evidence as Mr Saliba and his staff continued to work.

The thieves had gone straight to a cash register, pulling it out and then fleeing with a till containing $300 — the money was the business’s daily float.

They helped themselves to the tips jar, too, so netted about $500 in total.

But Mr Saliba’s loss is much more — damage to the door and flyscreen door add another $1000 to his pain.

“At $1500, insurance will cover most of it but it’s the inconvenience of it,” he said.

“I’m probably more angry that there are people out there who keep doing it and getting away with it.”

Mr Saliba said he did everything he could to secure the premises.

“Where does it end?” he asked.

“We could fence the whole place and make it all like a jail, but there’s still going to be those weak points.”

Mr Saliba said he had to remember that his loyal customers liked the place just as it was.

“I’m now obliged to do something with that front door though, it won’t sit with our whole rustic feel,” he said.

“We’re going to have to put in a steel door.”

Mr Saliba said the security footage showed two big men kicking the door in.

“It keeps the honest people out, but the crooks will have stuff in their hands that they’re going to use,” he said.

Anyone with information can contact police on (02) 6049 2600 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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