Australia's most-wanted father-and-son pair caught

Mark (left) and Gino Stocco are wanted for a string of property and violent crimes.
Mark (left) and Gino Stocco are wanted for a string of property and violent crimes.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Tip-off led police to isolated farm where duo were hiding and where decomposed body of a missing man was found

SYDNEY • Two of Australia's most wanted men, a father and son, have been caught after leading police on a near two-week chase that riveted the country.

It ended yesterday, along with the discovery of the decomposed body of a man missing since early this month, at their isolated hideout north-west of Sydney.

The case of Gino Stocco, 58, and son Mark, 35, who have been on the run for eight years, has enthralled Australia since they opened fire on police during a car chase, with the authorities launching a manhunt across three states for the men dubbed "modern day bushrangers".

Wanted for a string of property and violent crimes in three states, they evaded capture despite multiple sightings, until a tip-off led heavily armed police to a farm in Dunedoo, 345km from Sydney.

No shots were fired. Both men suffered minor injuries as they resisted arrest.

The case of Gino Stocco, 58, and son Mark, 35, who have been on the run for eight years, has enthralled Australia since they opened fire on police during a car chase, with the authorities launching a manhunt across three states for the men dubbed "modern day bushrangers".

New South Wales Police Assistant Commissioner Clint Pheeney said the body found after the arrests was believed to be that of a 68- year-old man missing since Oct 8.

"Overall, this has been a very intense operation which has spanned a number of states," he added, as a murder probe was launched.

The pair had been criss-crossing between New South Wales and Victoria states for the past 12 days, with police warning that they were armed and dangerous. The men had likely been changing their appearance, including shaving their beards, police said.

They were also believed to have frequently changed the licence plates and appearance of the stolen LandCruiser utility vehicle in which they were travelling.

One sighting came last Saturday at Gundagai in southern New South Wales, when they stopped to fill up the LandCruiser with fuel and drove away without paying.

The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Assistant Commissioner Pheeney explaining that what "put the final pieces of the jigsaw together" was a missing person report made by a relative of the 68-year-old man at a Sydney police station on Oct 8, after trying unsuccessfully to get in touch with the farm caretaker.

The Herald said police put that information together with a report on Tuesday from a local resident who said a white vehicle, similar to the one stolen by the Stoccos, was parked in the Gunnoo State Forest not far from Dunedoo.

Police surrounded the farm, known as Pinevale, which backs onto the Gunnoo State Forest, on Tuesday afternoon and covertly monitored the Stoccos for 16 hours before striking.

No firearms or ammunition were found there yesterday, but police plan to continue searching the 385ha farm.

The Stoccos had worked on Pinevale previously. Locals told the Herald that it was a hard-to-find property and "the perfect place to hide".

Mr Pheeney defended the time it took to capture the men, who were suspected of having stockpiles of supplies and weapons on their route.

"If we look at how these people operated and if we look at the expanse of country out here, the number of roads that are sealed, unsealed, back roads, forestry trails, these people knew the bush," he said. "They knew the bush very well, they knew all the ways and times to avoid police."

The men are expected to be questioned further today, although police earlier said they wanted to charge Gino and Mark with 13 offences each, including attempted murder.

Both men have reportedly spent time in prison for crimes going back at least as far as 2004, when Mark assaulted his mother.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 29, 2015, with the headline 'Australia's most-wanted father-and-son pair caught'. Print Edition | Subscribe