Pair charged over bushfire looting spree

Two men have been charged in connection with the looting of homes burned down in Victoria\’s Black Saturday bushfires.

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One 18-year-old man, of Hampton Park, is accused of stealing a mobile phone from the garage of a fire-damaged house and other electrical equipment including an X-box video game console.

Another 18-year-old man, of Narre Warren South, has been charged with handling the stolen items.

Both men lived less than a kilometre from where one of the Black Saturday fires destroyed six homes and extensively damaged another six in Langbourne Drive, Narre Warren South,.

“We are treating these crimes as pretty serious due to the impact of the fires on people and the serious type of offending,” said Detective Acting Sergeant Ed Keon-Cohen.

Acting Sergeant Keon-Cohen was in a team of police investigating a grassfire at Narre Warren that spread to the houses and whether it had been deliberately lit when they learnt about the looting.

Thefts \’despicable\’

“A number of homes were looted while the fires were burning and people were fighting the fires or had evacuated,” he said.

“People who live in the damaged homes noticed items missing.”

Police carried out a search warrant in Narre Warren South on Wednesday night and later arrested and charged two men.

The pair have been bailed to appear at Dandenong Magistrates\’ Court on April 9.

Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Steve Fontana said the looting of homes of bushfire victims “despicable”.

“I think anyone that goes in stealing is bad enough as it is, but when people have been through some sort of trauma like this, I think it\’s a pretty low act,” he said.

He said police were continuing their investigations into the causes of several fires and called on the public to contact Crime Stoppers if they saw any suspicious behaviour in bushfire affected areas.