Freestyling cops brave murky waters to catch slippery crook

Two Echuca police officers braved chilly waters this week to catch a man wanted for numerous firearms and theft offences after he swam across the Murray River to escape Victoria.

Police detected the man behind the wheel of a Toyota Landcruiser around 3:15pm on Monday 29 November, which had been reported stolen from Mitiamo the same day.

They pursued the vehicle along sections of the Murray Valley Highway between Torrumbarry to Wharparilla before deploying stop sticks, which caused one of the tyres on the Landcruiser to deflate.

The driver drove into the Wharparilla Forrest before abandoning the vehicle and swimming about 100 metres across the Murray River.

Two officers did not hesitate to give chase, diving in fully clothed to coax the man back to Victorian soil.

The officers negotiated with him for about 10 minutes in the water, before he agreed to swim back to shore where he was arrested without further incident.

The 35-year-old man from Mitiamo was charged with numerous offences including: prohibited person possess firearm; possess prohibited weapon; possess cartridge ammunition; theft of motor vehicle (x3); display false plates; dangerous drive whilst pursued by police; fail to stop when directed; reckless conduct; careless drive; and criminal damage.

He was remanded to appear at Bendigo Magistrate’s Court on 8 December 2021.

Police are appealing to anyone who was driving along the Murray Valley Highway between Torrumbarry to Wharparilla between 3:15pm and 3:30pm on Monday 29 November who may have witnessed the incident or has Dash Cam footage to contact Echuca Police Station on 5483 1500.

Quotes attributable to Detective Sergeant Barry Gray – Campaspe Crime Investigation Unit:

“No two days are the same for a police officer and this arrest demonstrates how as police, we are always prepared to go above and beyond, and in this case into the murky depths of the Murray River, to protect the community.

“We will stop at nothing, even a soggy uniform, to make sure those who cause harm to the community are brought to justice.

“These quick-thinking police officers showed no hesitation in jumping into the water to stop this offender – it wasn’t their swimming skills but their calm ability to negotiate with the offender, which ultimately led to his arrest on Victorian soil”.

/Public Release. View in full here.