UPDATE: Good news – the ute has been recovered. Read more here.
EARLIER: A Bendigo woman has been left devastated after thieves stole her “pride and joy” on Monday night.
Sheridyn Watts parked her 1995 Ford Courier dual-cab utility outside her Long Gully home at 6pm and when she went out to drive it again at 11pm, it was gone.
“I dropped to my knees and just bawled,” the 21-year-old said.
“It was the crappiest car I had ever seen but it was my pride and joy.”
It comes as CFA crews were called to a car fire in Eaglehawk bushland on Tuesday morning, where a ute similar to Ms Watts’ had been set alight.
Police are investigating the theft of Ms Watts’ ute, but without it and with her second car in need of repairs, she has no way of getting to her current work in Pyramid Hill.
“It was my first car and it just means everything to me,” she said.
Firefighters were also called to another car fire in Railway Street, Kangaroo Flat, early Sunday morning.
Two weeks before, two cars stolen in central Victoria turned up on fire in the same morning.
Just last week, a Huntly family went to the lengths of offering a $3000 reward for information leading to the recovery of their stolen ute; and at the weekend, three vehicles were stolen from Axedale Quarry.
The latest crime statistics show motor vehicle thefts have risen by more than 30 per cent in the City of Greater Bendigo.
In the 12 months from April 2016 to March 2017, there were 369 motor vehicle theft offences, up from 281 in the same period 12 months earlier.
Over the past five years, car thefts have more than doubled in greater Bendigo, while the estimated population has grown by 7 per cent, according to the statistics.
On a suburb level, 43 vehicles were stolen Bendigo in the 12 months from April 2016 to March 2017, 36 in Kangaroo Flat and 31 in Golden Square.
Leading Senior Constable Marg Fitzpatrick said people could take simple steps to prevent their vehicles being stolen.
“Secure your vehicle by not leaving keys inside, lock all doors, remove valuables and, at night, park in a well-lit area,” she said.
“The big thing is about doing a physical check.”
The crime prevention officer said people should also be wary about leaving documents with their home address inside the car, or keys and remotes to the garage.
“It's all about prevention,” she said.