Gino Stocco, left, and his son Mark after their arrest.A SIGHTING of an abandoned ute in dense bushland and a missing person report in Sydney were the two crucial jigsaw pieces that led police to Gino and Mark Stocco’s hideout on Wednesday morning.
After eight years on the run, the father and son fugitives were captured by heavily armed police on Wednesday at an extremely remote property near Elong Elong, 50kilometres east from Dubbo in central NSW.
Described by police as modern day bushrangers, the dangerous pair were wanted for a string of violent and property crimes across three states.
They had led police on a wild chase across NSW and Victoria since allegedly shooting at officers near Wagga Wagga on October 16.
Hours after the dramatic arrest on Wednesday morning, police discovered the ‘‘fairly decomposed’’ body of 68-year-old Rosario Cimone on the rugged property, Pinevale.
Fairfax Media understands he was an Italian-born caretaker who had worked with the Stoccos at Pinevale and disappeared four weeks ago.
As they were surrounded by tactical officers and dragged from the ground, the Stoccos claimed ‘‘self defence’’ when confronted about Mr Cimone’s death, Fairfax Media has been told by a police source.
Mr Cimone’s sister had made a missing persons report at Green Valley police station, in western Sydney, on October 8.
‘‘All we knew was that he was missing, we’d been trying to call him for days without luck,’’ a relative said last night.
Police visited the property, which the Stoccos had worked on as recently as the October long weekend, but they couldn’t find the caretaker.
Then, on Tuesday, an Elong Elong local reported a white ute, similar to the one stolen by the Stoccos in recent days, parked suspiciously in the Goonoo State Forest not far from Dunedoo.
That ‘‘put the final pieces of the jigsaw together’’, Acting Assistant Commissioner Clint Pheeney said.
Tactical operations officers surrounded the Pinevale property, which backs onto the Goonoo State Forest, on Tuesday afternoon and covertly monitored the Stoccos for 16 hours before striking.
‘‘They did not surrender to police or hand themselves in,’’ Mr Pheeney said. ‘‘There was some resistance to the arrest and as a result of the arrest, some minor injuries, which are still being assessed at Dubbo Base Hospital.’’
The manhunt for the Stoccos had covered thousands of kilometres in the past 12 days, with the pair last sighted on Saturday night filling up at a South Gundagai petrol station, 500 kilometres away from Elong Elong.
However, a spur-of-the-moment decision in recent days to return to the remote Pinevale property would prove to be their undoing.
Locals described the property, down a hidden bush track, as hard to find and ‘‘the perfect place to hide’’. The owner would visit no more than a few days a year, a farmer, Matt O’Leary, said.
‘‘It’s not something you drive past at all,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s a pretty good hiding spot.’’
Mr Pheeney said it had been a ‘‘very intense operation’’ and police would continue to comb the 385-hectare property, looking for firearms, ammunition and evidence for what is now a homicide investigation.
‘‘They knew the bush very well, they knew all the ways and times to avoid police,’’ he said. ‘‘[But] it was only going to be a matter of time before we tracked them down.’’