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From the Archives, 1979: The After Dark bandit strikes again in Victoria

The bandit, wearing a rubber ape mask on his 24th raid, shot Senior Constable Ray Koch twice in the lower back outside the CBC Bank about 4.45 pm.

It is believed Senior Constable Koch was staking out the bank, saw the bandit coming along a side street and tried to pull off his mask.

The bandit shot Senior Constable Koch, dragged him about 50 metres to the bank’s High Street door, then dumped him inside near the counter.

He threw bags on to the counter, levelled a gun at the teller and ordered that the bags be filled.

The bandit said: “Call an ambulance. I’ve shot the cop.” He demanded the keys to the teller’s car.

Heathcote CBC bank, where Senior Constable Ray Koch was shot in April 1979.

Heathcote CBC bank, where Senior Constable Ray Koch was shot in April 1979.Credit:The Age

The teller filled the bags with about $9000. The bandit ran from the bank and made his getaway in the teller’s orange Datsun sedan.

The manager of the bank, Mr. Jeff Porra, said about four staff were on duty when the bandit struck.

Mr. Porra said the bandit, who was “most agitated”, said he expected to be caught soon and would get life.

“He came in and sat the injured policeman down in a chair – the policeman was very distressed,” Mr. Porra said.

“He had a gun in one hand and was wielding a knife in the other.”

The “After Dark” bandit has carried a variety of weapons on his raids, including an imitation machine gun. Yesterday he had a .25 pistol, a knife with a 23-centimetre blade and a jimmy.

The bandit pushed the knife under his jumper as he left the bank.

It was the After Dark bandit’s third raid on the bank since July 21 last year – and the second time he had escaped in that car.

It was also the second time he had met a policeman outside the bank. In the July 21 raid he jabbed a sawn-off shotgun in an off-duty constable’s ribs and said: “You wouldn’t happen to be a copper?”

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Senior Constable Koch was in uniform when the bandit shot him yesterday.

They removed one .25 calibre pistol bullet. Although there was a second hole in his back they could not find another bullet.

Senior Constable Koch is married with four children, aged between 16 and 27.

Police swung every available man into the hunt. Road blocks cut every road from Heathcote, 95 kilometres north of Melbourne. Police were stopping cars as far away as the New South Wales border.

The police crime coordinator, Chief Superintendent Phil Bennett, described the bandit as “dangerous… he is really vicious.”

“We have thrown every available resource into the hunt,” he said.

Ten members of the crack Swat Squad – specialists in the most dangerous police missions – were sent to the area with the dog squad.

Policemen were recalled to duty. Others volunteered to join the hunt in any capacity.

One policeman, Sergeant Bob Santon, of Bendigo, who has known Senior Constable Koch for more than 10 years, was keeping a vigil at the hospital last night.

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“He is a good country policeman,” Sergeant Santon said.

“Everyone knows that one day it could happen, but you don’t think about it much,” he said.

Last might Heathcote was under police siege.

Police recovered the getaway Datsun at the Heathcote Showgrounds, near where it was abandoned on the previous occasion.

Police thought they might find it there after a woman teller told them the bandit had reminded her that he had used the car before.

The bandit was seen leaving the Showgrounds yesterday on a blue Yamaha motorcycle. It was stolen from Cranbourne on Thursday night.

He also escaped on a motorcycle stolen from Waverley, the first time he took the teller’s car.

Chief Superintendent Bennett said police now suspected he lived somewhere between Waverley and Cranbourne. His method of operating was to “lie low in the bush” for some time before emerging.

Yesterday’s raid was his 24th since he first struck at a TAB on May 30, 1977 – equaling the record attributed to the “Building Society Bandit”.

The haul of about $9000, takes his total to $107,000.

The “After Dark” bandit earned his name because of his early habit of striking at country TAB agencies just before closing time. He “retires” during the months of daylight savings time.

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