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.
Stocco manhunt leaves town of St James scared
St James publican Joanne Bate said a police highway patrol car had “no chance” of stopping a white ute when it fled up St James Road.
She was just 20 metres away from the incident that sparked a manhunt for Gino and Mark Stocco from 1.45pm on Thursday.
“Then the area was swarmed with cops and helicopters,” Mrs Bate said.
At first it did not occur that the incident could be connect to two of Australia’s most-wanted men, but it was not long before fear hit.
“You just don’t know what they’re capable of,” she said. “I don’t mind having police in the area, but this is pretty scary.
“Straight away I got up and locked the doors.”
The incident did not hamper pub business, as about 10 regulars still had a drink at the bar on Thursday evening with the belief if was the safest place to be in town.
“(Police) know we’re a bit concerned out here, it’s just a town of 70,” Mrs Bate said.
She did not agree with police saying the incident could be unrelated, saying “I think it’s them”.