‘Friends’ in Pingaring crime spree

Michael TraillNarrogin Observer
Sergeant Heidi Melia, Pingaring farmers Ronald and Winston Dunwell, and Constable Jesse Blackbourne .
Camera IconSergeant Heidi Melia, Pingaring farmers Ronald and Winston Dunwell, and Constable Jesse Blackbourne .

Pingaring farmers say they feel betrayed and devastated after a former “friend and neighbour” allegedly stole $250,000 worth of items from their properties.

Police have charged Craig Vernon Stone, 45, of Mandurah and Darren William Riley, 51, on 43 counts relating to a series of stealing, burglary and trespass offences on properties in the region in December.

The conservative estimated sum of $250,000 does not include damage done to various properties from Wickepin to Karlgarin starting December 15.

Police will allege the pair scoped out then raided sheds, farm houses, a golf club and businesses across the south-east Wheatbelt, taking for themselves tools, fuel, quad bikes and even a truck without owners realising what had happened until hours or days later.

As the farming community began to finish harvest in the days leading into Christmas, they soon realised they were the victims of burglaries.

Piecing together thefts from across the region, while more were being reported each day, the community liaised with police from Narrogin to Kondinin.

The accused were arrested on Boxing Day following a police pursuit.

Mr Riley surrendered himself to police, however police said Mr Stone fled and was found the following morning asleep in a stolen truck.

“This has shocked the community a fair bit, it’s left a pretty sour taste in everyone’s mouth,” one Pingaring farmer, who wishes to remain anonymous, told The Observer.

Farmers travelled to Narrogin Police Station on Thursday to identify and collect belongings recovered.

Mr Stone and Mr Riley were remanded in custody at Hakea Prison facing a combined 43 charges including aggravated burglary, stealing a motor vehicle and criminal damage.

Another Pingaring farmer, who also wished to be unnamed, said the community was disappointed.

“I think it has frightened the community and worried them that it could actually happen to us,” he said.

Mr Stone and Mr Riley will appear before Perth Magistrate’s Court on February 1.

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