False alarm in hunt for fugitive duo

A police car rammed, by a white utility vehicle, on a country road in a small town  – Thursday’s events in Lake Rowan had all the markings of wanted father and son Gino and Mark Stocco.

But after almost seven hours of scouring North East roads, properties and bushland, police moved away from the belief the North East had been visited by the dangerous duo.

What actually happened remains shrouded in mystery.

The usually quiet town of Lake Rowan became the focus of the manhunt after a police highway patrol car was rammed on St James Road at about 1.45pm.

Police established a command centre in Wangaratta as they suspected the Stoccos were involved and set up a widespread operation with a radius of about 100 kilometres in an attempt to apprehend them.

The perimeter involved more than 20 police units from Wangaratta, Benalla, Cobram, Yarrawonga, Glenrowan and stations along the NSW border from Albury to Tocumwal.

The police air wing unit also provided eyes from the sky.

Officers received multiple reports of possible sightings of the Stoccos’ car, described as a white Toyota Landcruiser with a white bullbar and orange lights on top.

But police confirmed the vehicle involved in the ramming of the police car near Lake Rowan was not the same one the Stoccos were last seen driving.

The car was towed with an escort  at about 6pm to a secure location in Wangaratta. 

The air wing also patrolled the Warby Range after reports, later disproved, that the car had been dumped in bushland, leaving the pair on foot.

A Victoria Police spokesman told The Border Mail he could not attribute the police search in the region to the Stoccos manhunt.

"We do have something going on in the North East, but at the moment we have nothing to confirm it to the search for the father and son," he said.

By the time Wangaratta command called an end to the operation at 8.20pm, they had moved away from the belief the Stoccos were involved.

The wanted father and son remain on the run after they are believed to have shot at police near Wagga Wagga last Friday.