Two of Australia’s most wanted men may return to the Wagga region after last week’s shootouts with police, the city’s top cop has warned.
Father and son duo Mark and Gino Stocco have spent the past eight years on the run from police, but surfaced in dramatic circumstances on Friday when they sprayed police with a hail of gunfire while fleeing officers near Mangoplah.
They have since been sighted heading south, with their last confirmed location being a service station at the Victorian town of Euroa on Monday evening.
Wagga police Superintendent Bob Noble said there was an indication the Stoccos had developed a “modicum of comfort” with the area – a sign they may return to the region.
“People in this area and adjoining districts should continue to be vigilant, because there’s no guarantee they won’t come back this way,” he said.
“Most people are creatures of habit so we’ve got to be aware there’s a chance they may return.”
Police stumbled upon the pair on Friday after receiving reports of a silver four-wheel drive in the Mangoplah area with stolen numberplates attached.
Officers were warned the vehicle may have contained the fugitive duo but the events that unfolded took police completely by surprise.
“(The Stoccos) weren’t people who were necessarily on our radar,” Superintendent Noble said.
“We did take heed of those bulletins (regarding the pair) but it wasn’t something that had been spoken about in recent times. You can’t always be ready for everything and no doubt it would have been quite a surprise and extremely concerning when rounds start getting cracked off around the ears of our officers.”
Superintendent Noble said the police involved in the initial chase on Friday were involved in a “profoundly disturbing” event and had been offered time off over the weekend and support from the force.
“We’ve spent some time with those police who were so affected that afternoon and they continue to do their duty,” he said.
“They did a great job in the circumstances and we’re very proud of them.”
Police have begun to wind down their operational search for the Stocco pair, but Superintendent Noble said the search for evidence regarding their activities in the region was “only escalating rather than being wound down”.
Those activities included allegedly stealing a white Toyota Landcruiser from a Little Billabong home overnight on Sunday, which police are searching for. The pair are believed to be still travelling in the vehicle.
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