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“Ram raid” arrest

Thursday, 15th September, 2011

A young man and a boy arrested for last week’s “ram raid” had just over a week before stolen a car from the railway yards and crashed it through the gates, police said yesterday.

On Tuesday night police charged a 19-year-old man and a 17-year-old boy with stealing two vehicles from Picton Plants on September 5 and using them to commit the raid on a supermarket in Williams Street in the early hours of the following morning 

Police said that later that day, the man, Eugene Tahi Ponga-Thomson, was charged with stealing a car from the railway yards on August 25.

He was charged with committing the raid when he reported to police on Tuesday this week as part of the bail conditions set for the railway yard car theft.

Both of the accused faced court yesterday charged with aggravated breaking and entering in company, destroying property in company, stealing motor vehicles, and destroying property by fire in company.

The boy pleaded not guilty in the Children’s Court and was refused bail to face court again on October 18.

Mr Ponga-Thomson applied for bail and it was opposed by police who told the Local Court he was on a good behaviour bond at the time the raid was committed.

Police Prosecutor, Sergeant Michael Hough, also said Mr Ponga-Thomson had admitted to police his involvement in the crime.

The fact that he was facing a full-time jail sentence if convicted might encourage him to flee if granted bail, Sgt Hough said, and police also had “real concerns” that he might commit more offences, given his recent form.

Paul Walton, representing Mr Ponga-Thomson, sought bail on the grounds that two of the charges were strictly indictable which meant he would have to stay in jail until the next local sittings of the District Court in March.

Mr Walton said his client had five days ago got a job as shearer in sheds in the local district but was nonetheless willing to report to police every day if given bail.

But Magistrate Geoff Dunlevy said the police case was “extremely strong”.    

Mr Dunlevy agreed that Mr Ponga-Thomson was facing a long spell on remand but that with his criminal “conduct now escalating, I am forced to refuse bail.”

Mr Ponga-Thomson entered no plea and will next face court via video link from the jail on October 18. 

Police alleged that he told them he and the boy had intended to steal a car from Picton Plants and drive it to Mildura.

They jemmied open a roller door and used an angle grinder to break into a safe and steal the keys for two vehicles, a tipper truck and a ute, which they then packed with tools and equipment from the Silverlea workshop, the police said.

They said that ute was used to smash through the steel fence and both vehicles were driven to bushland just off the Wentworth road where the stolen tools and equipment were hidden. 

After that they headed to the IGA supermarket where the tipper was backed through a roller door and loaded with cartons of beer and other alcoholic drinks which were then allegedly deposited with friends of the pair, the police alleged.

The tipper truck was abandoned near the O’Neill Park tennis courts and they then drove off in the ute but lost control of it in Morgan Street and crashed it into a picket fence, police said.

They said the pair then returned to the tipper truck and set it on fire to destroy any fingerprints. 


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