Four people have been arrested over a series of dangerous arson attacks on tobacco stores but police allege they are “likely just the puppets for those pulling the strings”.
The three men and one woman were arrested and interviewed by police on Friday.
Their arrests followed raids at properties at Heidelberg, Kilmore, Flemington, Derrimut, Broadmeadows, Pascoe Vale and Glenroy, and were in the wake of a series of mainly Melbourne-based arson attacks dating back to March.
The 10 attacks on tobacconists are believed to be linked and included a fire at a Springvale store on March 24, repeated fires at a Moonee Ponds store in May, a fire at a Wodonga store on July 27 and a fire on the same morning at Wangaratta, police said.
The most recent blaze was on August 11 at a tobacco store on Hogans Road, Hoppers Crossing.
Nobody was injured during the incidents, police said.
“Today’s arrests are just the start and we are very conscious that the individuals we have arrested so far are likely just the puppets for those pulling the strings in this syndicate,” arson and explosives squad Detective Inspector Chris Murray alleged.
“This is inherently dangerous behaviour and I want to assure the public that police will not tolerate such blatant and dangerous criminal conduct in our communities.”
A 33-year-old Epping man, a 40-year-old Kilmore man, a 31-year-old Flemington woman and a 43-year-old Melton man have been charged with multiple offences.
The Epping and Kilmore men were both remanded in custody to appear before the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on November 10.
A 31-year-old Flemington woman was bailed to appear at Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on August 25 whilst the 43-year-old Melton man was bailed to appear at Sunshine Magistrates’ Court on March 28, 2024.
A 28-year-old Altona North man was released pending further enquiries.