An animal ranger has been left “traumatised” after a masked robber held her at gunpoint and tied her up at a Melbourne animal shelter before demanding to know where the cats were.
Casey Crime Investigation Unit Detective Senior Sergeant Glen Cruse said the man wearing a helmet, mask and dressed in camouflage gear approached the woman in the car park of the Thompsons Road lost dogs’ home in Cranbourne West about 10.20pm on Monday.
He pointed an assault rifle at the woman, demanded she get out of her vehicle and hand over her mobile phone, before walking her inside the animal welfare property.
He then bound her wrists with cable ties and asked her where the cats were.
The offender left the room and didn’t return.
The woman was able to free herself and phoned for help.
Senior Sergeant Cruse said the man deceived the woman by dressing up like an officer.
“It’s very traumatising to be confronted like that in a dark remote location,” he told reporters on Tuesday afternoon.
“The circumstances are a little bizarre, but it’s really concerning that someone has confronted someone like that in the middle of night.
“Dressed the way he was, armed with a firearm, it’s really concerning offending and we’re really keen to charge the person responsible.”
The woman was not injured during the incident.
Senior Sergeant Cruse said no animals had been taken from the facility, but it was not clear where he had gone after the woman answered his inquiry about the cats.
Staff at the shelter expressed their horror at the incident in a statement.
“The Lost Dogs’ Home is shocked and extremely concerned at an incident that occurred at our Cranbourne shelter overnight,” it read.
“The Home has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to violence against our staff in any shape or form.
“Our main priority is the welfare of our staff, and we are providing all the support possible to the animal transport team member who was a victim in this horrendous ordeal.
“The Lost Dogs’ Home is working with Victoria Police on this matter and thanks the community for their outpouring of support for our staff.”
Police scoured the property but could not locate the man.
He is described as being about 50 years old, caucasian and more than six feet tall with a solid build. He was wearing a tan-coloured helmet, a face mask with a print and military-style camouflage gear at the time.
Anyone with information should phone Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.