Cruel blow: Ashleigh’s grieving dad has campervan stolen
JUST weeks after losing his daughter, the father of Gold Coast melanoma campaigner Ashleigh Hale has lost a camper he spent $14,000 restoring, with police in Melbourne taking three weeks to act despite having footage related to its theft.
"We provided police with video footage of the person who came the night before which clearly showed the person and the rego of his car and showed him breaking into the van," said Tony Simrajh.
"We also provided them with details of the tow truck company who collected the van, and they told police where they dropped it off. So if they had acted then there's a high chance my van would have been found.
"Losing that was the second saddest day of my life."
Mr Simrajh said a senior sergeant told him that they just "don't have the resources to follow up" on incidents in a timely fashion because police were tied up with COVID-19 duties.
Police also told him that the delay in executing the search warrant was because of "resourcing issues, as there needs to be a team to execute the warrant due to safety as they do not know what they will be met with and they have not had the resources to do so".
"But there's only a handful of cases here in Melbourne at the moment and there's still all these lockdowns, it's just ridiculous," he said.
"I imagine the criminals are having an absolute field day right now. It's not good enough."
The grieving father, who previously worked in Melbourne, is in Victoria to tie up loose ends before moving to Queensland permanently. His wife Tracey remains at their Gold Coast home.
Mr Simrajh said his "beautifully and lovingly restored 1984 Hiace camper van was my pride and joy" and he'd spent upwards of $14,000 on the vehicle, including rebuilding the engine and gearbox.
"Everything inside was awesome. I'd just spent $3500 on the driver's cabin. We were just about to give it a paint job and it would have been perfect. Mechanically it was brilliant, you couldn't even hear the motor running," he said.
Mr Simrajh said police told him they executed a search warrant three weeks after his complaint, and two people were arrested and admitted to stealing his camper.
"The van has been broken down for parts and sold for cash to apparently people they don't know. The rest, e.g. the body has been sold to a wreckers or metal recycler, they are refusing to say who to," he said.
"Police took way too long to act due to apparently 'resourcing issues' and now my beautiful camper that I had lovingly restored is gone forever.
"It's just wrong, police are happy to hand out millions in fines for going 5km past your home or not wearing a face mask. I was pulled over twice yesterday to check my work permit."
Mr Simrajh, who has spent the past few months away from work to care for his terminally-ill daughter, said he couldn't afford to buy another one and do it up.
"Next step is life without a camper," he said.
"Unfortunately we have had a lot of expenses over the last year and in particular the last few months with what has happened and that has left the reserves depleted."
Despite Mr Simrajh's financial situation, he recently sent money to a Gold Coaster stuck in the Philippines after reading an article in the Bulletin about how Ryan Hobson was surviving on snakes and rice and battling with mental health issues.
"I just helped out a fellow Aussie in trouble, that's all. If he needs more help, I told him to let me know," Mr Simrajh said.
Victorian Police have been approached for comment.
UPDATE: Victoria Police response
A Victoria Police spokeswoman said Narre Warren police received a report of a stolen van from a mechanics in Hallam on 28 September.
Investigators were told that the van was allegedly stolen from a mechanics on Hallam South Road on 22 September and towed to an address in Doveton.
Police executed a search warrant at the address in Doveton on October 14 where they arrested a woman. The 33-year-old woman has been released pending summons for theft of motor vehicle.
The van was not located as part of the search warrant however the investigation remains ongoing and police continue to make inquiries.
"We understand that victims may feel some frustration in these situations, however we want to reassure everyone that the appropriate investigative steps were taken in a timely manner," she said.
"Police are required to follow certain process as part of their investigations and the timing of this investigation was not impacted by any police resourcing issues.
"Police work extremely hard every day and night to keep everyone living in the Casey Police Service Area (PSA) safe.
"Local police are confident they are providing an effective policing response to the Casey community, supported by specialist units that work across the wider area."
These include the highway patrol, divisional response unit, proactive policing unit, family violence investigation unit, and sexual offences and child abuse investigation team.
Originally published as Cruel blow: Ashleigh's grieving dad has campervan stolen