Man Recalls Horror At Being Carjacked In Daylight At Southland Shopping Centre

October 4th, 2016

A man has told of his terror at being forced from his car by three men at a busy suburban shopping centre car park on Monday afternoon.

Monash University graduate and part-time tutor, Ben van Mierlo, 21, had driven to Southland shopping centre in Cheltenham to pick up his husband, Jay, from work.

Three men forced Ben van Mierlo, pictured right with husband Jay, from his car at Southland shopping centre.

Three men forced Ben van Mierlo, pictured right with husband Jay, from his car at Southland shopping centre.  Photo: Supplied

Mr van Mierlo was chatting on the phone to his mother Roslyn about borrowing the family tent for a camping trip he was planning as he drove his Toyota Yaris into the shopping centre car park about 1.25pm and pulled into a vacant bay.

“I don’t even remember if I turned the car off. I had seriously just got into the park,” Mr van Mierlo said.

“As soon as the car stopped, the driver’s door opened, I thought it was Jay …and then I looked up and I saw this guy in a really puffy jacket, really dark colour.

“He yelled and screamed at me to ‘get out of the car, get out of the car’.

Mr van Mierlo said the man, who was about 180 centimetres tall and well-built, had an olive complexion, though most of his face was hidden by the jacket’s hood, which was pulled tight around the man’s face. The man was also wearing sunglasses.

“I hesitated, so he grabbed my shirt and pulled me out of the car,” Mr van Mierlo said.

“Then he jumped in the driver’s seat. I am yelling and screaming at him, ‘what are you doing? Stop! Help, someone!’

“And I see two guys come out from this car parked behind me that I hadn’t noticed at all, and they came out, opened the door of my car, they are all now sitting in my car. And they are yelling, ‘go, go’.”

Mr van Mierlo said the driver quickly reversed the car and then drove straight off. The men left behind a white Toyota Hilux ute that police allege was stolen from Dingley Village, in Melbourne’s south-east in the morning.

“I was pretty shocked …really freaked out,” Mr van Mierlo said.

“I ran out …yelling out after the car, ‘that’s my car, that’s my car, someone help’.”

He said bystanders rushed to help him and waited with him until police arrived. One also helped him call his mother, who had been left fearing the worst when her phone conversation with her youngest son was abruptly cut off.

“We were still just finishing off, then all of a sudden I heard, ‘get out of the car, get out of the car’, ‘no, no’, and just a whole lot of noise and ‘beep, beep’,” she said.

“And I am listening to all of this, I am going ‘what’s going on? Ben? Ben?’

“And all of a sudden the phone just cut off.”

“All I could think of was, ‘okay, I didn’t hear a bang. So, he didn’t run into anything, and no one ran into him.”

Ms van Mierlo said all she wanted now was to see the culprits caught and taken off the streets so no one else would have to go through the same experience.

Victoria Police spokeswoman Belinda Batty said Kingston crime investigation unit detectives were appealing for public assistance following two car thefts on Monday.

Ms Batty said after the carjacking,  it was believed the offenders stole a set of number plates, 1CE 6TU, nearby and continued driving.

To compound his loss, Mr van Mierlo also had his prescription glasses and phone, as well as his and his husband Jay’s wallet in the car. Jay’s wallet was later handed in to Caulfield police station.

But, he considered himself lucky to have escaped unharmed.

“So many of these have ended in injuries or worse.  I have got not a scratch on me,” Mr van Mierlo said.

“I am a little shaken up, a little scared …but I am fine.”

Mr van Mierlo said he wanted to thank the people who helped him after the incident.

“They were all so kind,” he said.

“One of the guys, who gave me his phone to dial, was from Northcote, probably rather busy, but he hung around with me the whole time. He offered to drive me home. Just really waited until the police said they were going to help me.”

A woman ran inside to call security and then ran back to tell Mr van Mierlo’s husband about the incident.

Mr van Mierlo said he still could not believe the thieves would dare to strike in the middle of the day at such a public venue.

“If it happens to you in the middle of Southland shopping centre, at 1.30 in the afternoon, I don’t know where anyone is safe.”

Anyone with any information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential crime report to www.crimestoppersvic.com.au

– Neelima Choahan & Broede Carmody

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About Jumpin' Jack Cash

Deep connections are the most important aspect of my existence. I don’t care if people don’t know what they want. I love books. I’m cynical of love stories, although I’m romantic. I adore gardens. I like women who challenge me. I love the rain as an excuse to stay inside and dream. I'm furiously impatient. If I ask you a question best to tell me the truth as I'm likely to already know the answer. I'm a carnivore. I continuously underestimate the magic of fresh flowers in my home. I love warm rain in the summer. My mood elevates to epic proportions when the sun shines. Tell me not to do something and I'll do it twice and take photos. Running is my antidepressant. I loathe lies. I rarely forgive a lie. Loyalty and honesty are my most noble virtues, and I value them more than anything in other people. I love to love, and am able to fall in love very quickly, although it's only ever happened once. I understood myself and fixed myself only after destroying myself. My greatest excitement comes from deliberately getting lost in foreign cities. I can be extremely loud and frighteningly silent. I hate insinuations. I love storms. Justice for all. I'm a proud man, but welcome the influence of the feminine soul. I have two sisters. I’m a dreamer. I’m a deep thinker. Don’t deal with guilt trips or drama that well. I'm extremely stubborn and persistent. I'm brilliant at keeping secrets. I love driving. I become absolutely and completely lost while watching a burning fire. When the toast pops from the toaster I’m never ready and shit myself. I play the guitar, but require much improvement. Solitude and warmth of the sun are perfect together. I’ve been married once and now divorced. I’m a music junkie. Chocolate mousse is the shit. I curse too much. I find it difficult to make friends. I spent four years as a firefighter. I’ve run my own company since 1991. Bright lights, big cities. I’ve been an executive producer of a feature film. Some people don’t care, and that’s the biggest let-down of the human race. There are cures and solutions for many evils, but no remedy for the worst of them all - the apathy of human beings. The sound of the Italian language being spoken is as good as my favourite music. I hate corrupt cops. I relentlessly and passionately pursue anybody and anything that sets my soul on fire. I'm a dog lover, and all my dogs are considered family members. I have an obsession with photography. I have some close friends who are household names, but shall always remain anonymous. I’m crazy but not lazy. Losing a soulmate has hurt me badly. My two young sons are the nucleus of my universe. I love airports. I love freedom. If you are dishonest or disloyal, I can erase you from my life and memory immediately and permanently. I yearn to explore, dream about and discover as many friendships, deep connections and places, one possibly can in a lifetime.
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