Wens de Jong, the ‘cubby house man’ of Lake Albert, is the latest victim of Wagga’s car fire scourge.
Mr de Jong and his wife Elaine were woken at 4am by police on Saturday, to the crushing news their 2002 Nissan Pulsar had been gutted by flames.
The event has left the elderly couple scared to sleep in their own home.
“I’m worried, I don’t sleep lots at all,” Mr de Jong said.
“Every bit of noise now I can hear. If a car comes up and stops I’m out of bed.”
Elaine has asked her granddaughter to sleep in the room next to her.
“The thoughts you get are so scary,” she said.
The car was found burnt out in Ashmont after thieves broke in and stole the keys.
Mr de Jong’s wallet was also stolen, and his family have spent days getting new cards and trying to organise a replacement vehicle.
His insurer of many years Budget Direct, is now refusing to insure him.
His daughter Kate said they’ve received a lot of support from the community, including Wagga’s Budget Cars who gave them a good deal.
The family’s plight is all too familiar. In Lake Albert just a few weeks ago a ute was found burning in the Boat Club Car Park.
Just last year, their granddaughter Kristy, who lives with Mr and Mrs de Jong, had her car stolen from the same Gregadoo Road address.
However, Wagga Police say there hasn’t been a notable increase in car fires.
“I wouldn’t say Lake Albert’s a hot spot but in a town this size there are always going to be small groups of people out there committing offences,” Chief Inspector Andrew Spliet said.
“What we’d be asking people is to ensure that your vehicles are secured when they’re on the street or in your carport and ensure any valuables are removed from them.”
Chief Inspector Spliet said the police’s main source of information is the public in crimes of this nature.
“If you see people in your area that look suspicious or shouldn’t be there contact the local police which can be done anonymously so we can go and see what they’re actually doing,” he said.
While the ordeal has considerably shaken the de Jong family, they haven’t let it crush their infectious spirit.
They’ve bought another car so that Mr de Jong, who donates a cubby every year to charity, can do what he does best.
“I do little jobs for my daughter, anybody who needs a hand I go and help them because they can’t afford it either,” he said.