TALL STORY: Service station attendant behind the robbery that wasn't

THE owner of a Beechworth petrol station says he is “in shock” after an attendant confessed to fabricating a story about being robbed at gunpoint early yesterday.

Members of the armed offenders squad were on their way from Melbourne to investigate yesterday afternoon when a Wooragee man, 54, told police he had stolen the money.

He had earlier told police two masked men had pointed a handgun at him, demanding cash from the High Street Shell service station about 1am that morning.

Wodonga-based Frank Wadi, who also owns Shell petrol stations in Rutherglen and Shepparton, said he had rushed to the scene after hearing about the alleged robbery.

“I was more worried about the staff’s safety, because I was told there was a gun used,” he said.

Mr Wadi was later told by police it was an inside job.

“I was just in pure shock,” he said.

“I’m still in shock at the way it turned out.”

The Wooragee man, who had been working at the store for about seven months, has been charged with theft and making a false report to police.

An undisclosed amount of cash has been recovered.

Mr Wadi’s Rutherglen petrol station, which also operates 24 hours a day, has been targeted by armed robbers twice in the past year.

In February, it was reported two hooded men had used scissors to hold up the station.

And, in December, another attendant said he was assaulted with a hammer before an offender fled with cash.

Wodonga Detective Sgt Graeme Simpfendorfer said those robberies were still being investigated.

“We’re looking at both of the incidents (Beechworth and Rutherglen) to see if both of these reports could be linked,” he said.

Sgt Simpfendorfer said it was believed the Wooragee man had acted alone in relation to the Beechworth incident.

Beechworth police Sgt Geoff Still said he was “very disappointed” to find a false report had been made.

“We put our efforts and resources into tracking down the alleged offenders to then find out that the particular offence hasn’t occurred,” he said.

“It’s a large drain on our resources.”

The Wooragee man has been bailed to appear at Wodonga Magistrates Court on July 15.

Anyone with information about the incident should phone Wodonga detectives on (02) 6049 2600 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.