News

Gunshot tears the heart out of Cohuna innocence

By Ivy Jensen

AN EARLY morning shooting has robbed a small country community of its innocence, catapulted into the spotlight as detectives, uniformed police and specialist units poured into Cohuna on Friday.

It was a day that began as mundane as most for the strong dairying district, farmers up and about early for the day’s first milking.

That changed in an instant as a gunshot rent the early morning calm, leaving one man, the father of two children, dying.

One man is now on a murder charge and the people of Cohuna are still trying to come to grips with what unfolded late last week in this rustic setting.

Melbourne Homicide Squad detectives said they have charged an Echuca man with murder following the death of another man in Daltons Bridge, near Cohuna.

And are still looking for a second man.

They said a 28-year-old Echuca man presented himself at Echuca Police Station late Friday and was charged soon after being interviewed.

He was remanded to appear in Melbourne Magistrates’ Court today.

The dead man was allegedly gunned down outside his Cohuna home, next to his car.

A neighbour, who was up for milking, said she saw a car come down Easton Rd and turn into the property.

“About 30 seconds later I heard a big bang, some sort of gunshot,” she said.

Police soon after found a critically wounded man lying beside his car shortly after 6am but he was unable to be revived and died soon after.

Detectives are also believed to be investigating whether the death was drug-related or related to a significant theft of tools and equipment from a farm in the region.

It is also understood the father of two was the only person home at the time of the alleged shooting.

One of the first people at the scene after police was the dead man’s father, who looked very distressed.

Detectives also went to Kerang to interview the dead man’s girlfriend.

A local said they heard police and ambulance sirens just after 6am, followed by a chopper.

Another said “Cohuna is a safe town.

But when something like this happens it really makes you think’’, while a neighbour also told the Riverine Herald he heard the sound of a car screeching about the same time.

“I’ve lived in Cohuna my whole life, so it’s a real shock,’’ he said.

Another neighbour said the dead man had been living at the house for a couple of years.

“I would hear cars going to and from the house at all times of the night and they’d be going fast,” she said.

Police established a crime scene at number 32 Easton Rd near the intersection with Cohuna Island Rd and Melbourne-based Homicide Squad detectives arrived about midday, followed by crime scene officers who processed the scene for forensic evidence.

The death has shaken the tight-knit Cohuna community, many of whom believe it was drug-related.

‘‘There were some drug lords from Mildura here about six months ago looking for someone,’’ one woman said.

‘‘I wonder if that has anything to do with it?’’ Melbourne’s Andy Ellis and Mark Hatton said Cohuna’s ambience and beauty had kept them coming to town every fortnight for the past 35 years.

‘‘It’s a little sleepy hollow. A quiet relaxing town. What’s not to love?’’ he said.

‘‘This is a terrible thing for a small community like Cohuna.’’

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