A 24 year old local man who escaped from the Leongatha Police Station in his underpants last Wednesday evening, December 7, before leading officers on a dramatic chase around the district, was remanded in custody in the Wonthaggi Magistrates’ Court last Friday.
During an ultimately unsuccessful bail application hearing, before Magistrate Steve Raleigh, the man made an impassioned plea to be released from custody, so he could spend Christmas with his young children.
But Mr Raleigh said the alleged offender, who had previously failed to answer bail and had since been charged with escaping from police custody, represented an unacceptable risk to the community and therefore had not shown cause as to why he should be released.
He remanded him in custody to appear at the Latrobe Valley Magistrates’ Court on Friday, January 20 but the man might yet get out for Christmas.
Mr Raleigh said that once his lawyer had assembled the relevant material, including medical details and references, he could make another application for bail.
The court heard that the local man, who cannot be named because some of his charges relate to breaching a family violence intervention order, was picked up by Bass Coast Highway Patrol Police on the South Gippsland Highway at Ruby at around 5pm last Wednesday.
Police alleged he was in a car being driven by the person protected by the order and was also the subject of some outstanding warrants for failing to answer bail.
Officer in charge of the highway patrol police, Sergeant Jason Hullick, provided details to the court of what ensued after they pulled the car over and attempted to take the man into custody.
He said the man flung back an arm after police had taken hold of him, broke the grip of the officer and ran off into an adjoining paddock, later running back across the highway before police could catch him and overpower him, using capsicum spray in the process.
Once back at the Leongatha Police Station, the man complained of the effects of the OC spray, which he claimed was also irritating his genitals, but after police used a hose to ease the symptoms, the man stripped off his wet clothes and escaped out the back of the station yard wearing only his underpants.
Sgt Hullick said the man ran past commercial premises in Leongatha and down into the rail yards where he escaped detection and found his way to his parents’ home, which was unoccupied at the time, and re-clothed himself.
He allegedly phoned his partner and the pair escaped to Mirboo North where they took a rented room.
Acting on information, police were only seconds away from the location when a CFA car, fitted with lights and signs, parked outside the room and, mistaking it for a police car, the man slipped out a back window and again escaped from police.
The police saw him leave and called in the dog squad to assist them with a search of nearby rural properties.
Sgt Hullick said the resourceful escapee came back to his room where he collected a blanket and pillow, unseen by police, and slept the night in a local paddock.
It wasn’t until the next morning that he ultimately handed himself in at the Leongatha Police Station.
The court had earlier heard that the man was already in the justice system facing charges of driving while disqualified and breaching a family violence intervention order but had recently attracted police interest over the theft of petrol from a service station and riding away from police on a motorcycle; incidents over which he is yet to be charged.
When cross-examining Sgt Hullick, the accused man maintained he wasn’t the driver of the car seen on CCTV footage allegedly driving away after filling up and he also claimed he wasn’t in Coronet Bay when the motorcycle incident happened.
Clutching his ribs, and apparently in a poor state of health, the man told court that he had suffered two broken ribs in the ordeal and was yet to receive necessary medication.
Sgt Hullick had also noted that drug abuse and addiction was indicated in the alleged offender’s history.
At the end of the hearing the local man was taken back to the Wonthaggi Police cells in handcuffs.