Thieves have used an allegedly stolen excavator to smash into a bank and steal money in north-eastern Victoria overnight.
- A resident said the bank building is an “absolute mess” in the wake of the break-in
- Police believe the thieves stole the excavator and a truck were from a Shepparton address
- Tongala residents are unable to get access to cash in town due to the damage
Police said two men used the excavator to break into the front wall of the Bendigo Bank branch in Mangan Street, Tongala, shortly before 3:00am.
CCTV vision released by police shows the excavator smashing windows and tearing away another window and door frame.
Police said the men caused significant damage to both the building and an ATM.
Tongala newsagent Diana Haw told ABC Radio Statewide Drive Victoria the “demolition” of the side of the bank branch was a major attack on the town’s morale.
“Seeing the excavator [this morning] I thought: ‘Oh my gosh, did they get through the whole building?’ … it’s an absolute mess,” she said.
She said it did not appear anyone had heard the break-in, including the town’s baker who was in his shop at the time.
Ms Haw said the community of around 1,500 people has experienced a series of recent thefts, and the damage done to the bank branch would be deeply felt by the town’s older residents who still rely on cash and cheque transactions.
“We use the Bendigo Bank because [the money] goes back into the town … all the charities rely on it, from the aged care to the schools,” she said.
She said the suggestion was being made to organise community trips to help residents make the 15-minute journey to nearby Kyabram to get cash out.
Offenders need ‘a good hiding’
Police said the pair stole a number of cash boxes of unknown value before activating the alarm and fleeing in a white dual-cab ute.
Police said they believed the excavator, along with a truck located behind the bank, was stolen from an address on Apollo Drive, Shepparton, about 1:15am.
Witnesses also reported seeing a dark grey wagon near the front of the bank a short time before police were called.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
Ms Haw said several people had told her they would like to give the offenders “a good hiding” when they were caught, due to concern that nothing else was stemming recent petty crimes.
“It’s become a ‘me’ society, and what [the offenders] are going to do with that money I don’t know, but it doesn’t solve what they’re going to use it for — if it’s for drugs or something — you’re not going to have that money for long,” she said.