Dangerous group linked to Bendigo shooting

A man involved with an unsophisticated organised crime group operating in Bendigo has a history of evading police and reoffending while on the run.

Aaron Burzacott, 34, is one of four “dangerous” men on the run from police and believed to be armed.

The Bendigo Advertiser understands the group is connected to a recent shooting in White Hills where a 38-year-old East Bendigo man suffered minor facial injuries.

The Armed Crime Squad has taken over the investigation in relation to the shooting.

It is understood Burzacott was released from jail in May and is currently wanted for several matters including failing to appear at court while on bail and theft charges.

He is also wanted in relation to a number of recent crimes in Bendigo, Echuca and Rochester.

Police came close to catching two of the men on Thursday, sparking a large-scale manhunt.

Officers first tried to arrest 19-year-old Jordan Smith in Napolean Crescent, White Hills, but he escaped in a car after being doused in capsicum spray.

Ashley Backer, 32, was then seen later that day in East Bendigo, causing police to attempt to lock down the area.

Despite a more than three-hour search involving the air wing and dog squad, he was not able to be found.

The fourth man, Jesse Ruff, is the only one not wanted for failing to appear at court while on bail.

Burzacott has spent at least three stints in jail, breaching community based orders, intensive corrections orders, suspended sentences and parole. 

His most recent incarceration was for four months, plus time served for breaching an existing suspended sentence.

Prior to this, Burzacott spent a year on the run, continuing to commit further crimes including evading police.

He was caught in October, 2016.

WATCH: Detective Sergeant Steve Rainey addresses media following Thursday’s manhunt

Ten years earlier, Burzacott was sentenced to jail for 12 months in September, 2006, after committing an aggravated burglary while high on ice. When arrested, he tried to punch one of the police members and was sprayed with OC foam.

Magistrate William Gibb said at the time Burzacott kept committing the same offences, but his offending had elevated with the addition of the aggravated burglary.

Victoria Police issued its latest appeal for public assistance to help find Burzacott on June 29 this year and again on Friday. It follows repeated requests last year when Burzacott was also on the run.

Arrest is highest priority: police

Police said last week, arresting the the men was the highest priority for police.

“The people we’re looking for are very dangerous – they will run, steal motor vehicles and evade,” Detective Sergeant Steve Rainey said. 

“Their driving is extremely dangerous and very much of a concern for all of us.”

Victoria Police Inspector Michael Talbot said on Thursday there was no organised crime group in Bendigo “solely responsible for a series of offending in the local area”.

He confirmed the Armed Crime Squad was investigating the White Hills shooting, with assistance from local police.

“That investigation is ongoing and no one has been arrested in relation to the incident at this time,” he said.

The dog squad was called in to help in the search for Ashley Backer on Thursday. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

The dog squad was called in to help in the search for Ashley Backer on Thursday. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

When asked what was being done to address the group’s offending, Inspector Talbot said Bendigo police had a number of strategies in place to tackle volume crime and high impact crimes such as residential burglary and vehicle theft.

“This includes using intelligence to conduct targeted operations, patrolling of known hot spots and a focus on identifying and arresting recidivist offenders,” he said. 

“During the first half of the year the focus has been on the Bendigo area, with police now looking to extend this to the Campaspe area.”

Inspector Talbot said part of combating crime was working with the community to make their homes safer.

“We understand that it can be confronting for people to be a victim of any type of crime,” he said.

“Police will continue to target these offences and hold those who engage in this type of criminal behaviour accountable. We encourage anyone with information about crimes in their area to report the matter to police or via Crime Stoppers.”

The Victoria Police air wing also assisted in the manhunt on Thursday. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

The Victoria Police air wing also assisted in the manhunt on Thursday. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

In May, the Victorian government announced new bail reforms, which form part of the government's response to a review of bail by Supreme Justice Paul Coghlan.

Victorian Attorney-General Martin Pakula said on Friday the government was overhauling the state's bail system to make it harder than ever for people to get bail in Victoria.

"Under our changes, community safety will be given a much higher priority, and people who commit serious indictable offences while on bail will not be granted bail again unless there are exceptional circumstances,” he said.

"The Labor government's first wave of bail reforms have already passed Parliament and we will be introducing a second stage of reforms later this year."

When asked how had a man with a history of evading police and re-offending while on the run been allowed to be released on bail, Mr Pakula said “decisions about bail are made by the courts, not politicians”.