A father accused of kidnapping two 15-year-old girls and raping them in remote locations in the 1990s has been freed on bail because of his family’s ongoing support.

Father of seven, Garry Cook, has been charged nearly 24 years after allegedly raping the girls in September and December 1998, after picking them up in the Belgrave area.

The 71-year-old’s first alleged victim was hitchhiking near Belgrave train station at about 8.45pm on September 24, hoping for a lift to Emerald.

Cook allegedly offered her a ride, during which he pulled out a small silver revolver and held it to the girl’s head while he raped her, before driving her to the outskirts of Emerald.

Prosecutor Jelena Malobabic opposed bail in Melbourne Magistrates Court on Monday, arguing he was an unacceptable risk to the safety of women.

The second girl was just 10 seconds from home walking toward a bus stop when Cook allegedly pulled over and offered her a lift.

Cook allegedly drove into a paddock and forced the girl into the footwell of the car, ordering her to cover herself with a blanket before he drove another 15 or 20 minutes to a remote location.

The court heard Cook was armed with a silver handgun and a knife as he directed her to the back of the car where he raped her.

The girl was driven to Belgrave train station where she told friends and alerted police.

Male DNA profiles matching each other were found in multiple samples taken from each girl, which were later found to be a match to Cook.

Both girls also memorised the numberplates, which were found to be from stolen cars.

Cook lived in the area at the time and has owned a smash repair business since 1981, giving him access to a variety of vehicles, the court heard.

His lawyer Emily Clark said Cook had the support of his current wife and former partner as well as his children, she said.

Cook’s business, Pro-Car Collision Repair Centre, was forced to close after he was arrested because no one else could manage the insurance claims process.

An employee told the court all five staff would lose their jobs if Cook wasn’t able to run the business.

Magistrate Kieran Gilligan acknowledged the seriousness of the case, involving two children being kidnapped and raped in isolated areas.

But he said Cook intended to challenge DNA evidence including samples taken from the alleged victims at the time and a sample taken from him during his police interview.

He also acknowledged Cook’s ongoing family support, his ability to stay with his sister, a $500,000 surety and his work record.

A trial could also be some years away, he said.

The case is set to return to court for a committal mention in November.