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VIC

Nov 2, 2012

Man, they should have ran! Removalists taken for burglars

Removalists detained ... for removing possessions. Crikey intern Yolanda Redrup interviews the boss of the two workers accidentally taken for burglars in Melbourne yesterday.

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So what do you do if you see some removalists, in removalists’ t-shirts, loading goods into a clearly marked removalists’ van? Why, you call the police of course! These burglars must be stopped.

This happened to workers from the company Man With a Van in Melbourne yesterday — and company director Tim Bishop is not impressed that Victoria Police pulled guns on his innocent young workers, pinned them to the ground and cuffed them.

Bishop told his story to Crikey today in the hopes of avoiding a repeat of the dramatic incident, which happened when his staff had loaded up their van for a female customer and were driving on St Kilda Road around 8.20am yesterday.

“A cop car pulled in front of all of the traffic so no one could move, then made their way towards the van,” Bishop told Crikey.

“The boys were amused and thought ‘wonder what they’re up to, maybe it’s the customer?’ Until the first policeman pulled out his gun and pointed it at one of them and ordered them to ‘get out of the van and get on the ground’. They then proceeded to cuff the boys with a knee in the back. The boys were lain on the ground next to their van while the police spoke to the customer, who wasn’t cuffed at that stage (she was later). The boys were eventually rolled onto their sides and left there for a bit, then searched.

“After that, one of the plain-clothed police spoke to them and asked if they knew what was going on. One of the boys told him to look at the job sheet indicating who we were, the customer’s details, etc. One of the boys asked if the police could stop a bystander taking photos and was ignored.”

A spokeswoman for Victoria Police said the police were responding to a call from the customer’s neighbour who believed the men were stealing the woman’s possessions. The police had contacted the owner of the property who had said they were away on holidays, but had someone house sitting.

The scene attracted the attention of many passersby, with some shutterbugs stopping to take photos. Some witnesses tweeted what they saw. One Twitter user tweeted: “@ManWithAVan Thug Life! I love you guys. I’ll write you songs while you’re in the big house.”

After the ordeal, Bishop said his staff were sent for “a cup of tea and a quick lie down”. At first, he said, he had thought it was a kind of joke. “We’ve tried to be as light hearted as we can about it, but we wouldn’t have been quite so lighted-hearted had we known the full extent of what had happened,” he said. “It wasn’t until the guys came back that we discovered they had a firearm pulled on them.”

Understandably shaken, the two workers are taking the day off today to consider their next course of action. “The men are lying low and considering whether they want to take legal action and what their position is,” Bishop said.

The customer said in a statement: “It was certainly not the welcome to Melbourne I was expecting.”

At the time of publication, Victoria Police had not issued an official apology to Man With A Van. Police confirmed no one had been charged in the incident.

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