Tumut police have rejected suggestions that a crime wave is sweeping through Adelong following a home invasion on Wednesday, but concede the frequency and seriousness of offences in the town is escalating.
The latest incident involved an audacious assault directed at 73-year-old Adelong man, John Ortlipp, who was punched several times in the head and propelled back by a charging masked intruder who demanded money from the elderly man, after the front door of the Campbell Street unit was forced open early Wednesday morning.
The man, known locally as Spot, heard a knock on his door at 12.05am.
Thinking it was his next door neighbour, Donna Freeman, who he had been conversing with only 15 minutes before, Mr Ortlipp opened the door slightly before having it shoved violently open against him as the intruder entered his home.
Described as a short male wearing a dark hooded jumper with a white cloth mask across his face with a reportedly squeaky voice, the intruder allegedly punched Mr Ortlipp in the side of the head several times and also in the chest before aggressively demanding the man’s wallet.
Shaken by the ordeal Mr Ortlipp said he can not understand why he would be targeted for such a brazen and violent attack.
“I told the intruder I didn’t have any money, I don’t, it is the truth,” Mr Ortlipp. “My neighbour heard me shouting that and that’s when she got up and headed towards my place. I pretty much stood back and let him try and find whatever he was looking for.”
Often helping out Adelong people with odd jobs, Mr Ortlipp has lived in the Campbell Street units for the past 17-years and has no intention of being forced out due to fear.
“I won’t be moving, I’ll be staying right here,” he said. “I will be more vigilant though and will put on the night light. I won’t be answering the door at night either.
“I got a hell of a fright, I didn’t know what was going on. Here’s a person yelling at me, punching me with a white cloth over his face in a dark hood in the middle of the night. It’s not right that this sort of thing happens.”
The tight knit row of unit residents have rallied behind Mr Ortlipp, showing support both during and after the attack.
Ms Freeman ran in to ward off the intruder with an axe handle in hand and spent most of Wednesday looking after her elderly neighbour. Another neighbour was woken during the commotion by their barking dog and rang the police, whilst another neighbour is kindly preparing meals for the shaken pensioner.
Police spent most of Wednesday in Adelong, dusting the unit for prints and interviewing local residents determined to bring to justice the perpetrator.
The white cloth mask the intruder is believed to have used to conceal his identity was found near Mr Ortlipp’s back fence, the escape route for the trespasser.
“Police found the mask, it was like a small cloth with a bit of embroidery on it,” Mr Ortlipp said. “I hope they can find who did this. It seems crazy, all he took was a pair of my pants with a medication pamphlet in the back pocket. I reckon he thought it was my wallet.”
Mr Ortlipp’s frail health has seen him spend eight days in hospital for blood clotting related problems recently. He was only released on New Year’s Eve with his health still being monitored by local physicians.
His savage welcome home was the last thing the pensioner expected.
“The unit next to me has been broken into three times and lots of other places seem to be getting broken into as well,” Mr Ortlipp said. “The police reacted very quickly for me, which was good. Something needs to be done though, Adelong is a nice quiet place.”
Police have confirmed during their extensive scouring of the crime scene on Wednesday they located a tea-towel style of cloth that could have been used in the attack.
“We have sent the cloth for forensic testing and are following up a number of lines of inquiry,” Sergeant Shane Brasen said. “The detectives are continuing their investigations and we conducted a number of door knocks on Wednesday as well as gathering evidence at the scene.”
In the wake of the attack and following an increase in the reported number of break and enters in Adelong in recent months, police are urging residents to be vigilant in securing their property.
“We certainly have been receiving more reports of break ins,” Srg. Brasen said. “We suggest people install security lights, improve general home security, use window locks and deadlocks for doors and keep their eye out for their neighbours. People should report any suspicious activities and thefts.”
Whilst police continue their investigations into the incident they are keen to hear from anyone with any relevant information regarding the attack. They can be contacted on 69 477199 at the Tumut station or through Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.