Panel beater accused of constructing a ‘rape vehicle’ to prey on vulnerable teenagers during terrifying sex assault spree is back on the streets after posting $500K bail

  • Garry Cook, 71, of Drouin faces multiple counts of rape dating back to 1998
  • Police allege Cook picked up teenage girls and held them at gunpoint 
  • Cook is a father of eight and had run a panel beating business for 35 years 
  • Detectives allege DNA taken back in 1998 had now been linked to Cook 
  • In one alleged attack, Cook used a specially made 4WD to abduct his victim 

A panel beater accused of constructing a dedicated rape vehicle to prey upon vulnerable teens is back on the streets after his family put up $500,000 for his bail. 

Garry Cook, 71, of Drouin is accused of committing rapes in 1998 when he was residing in Menzies Creek – a small town 40km east of Melbourne‘s Central Business District. 

In chilling evidence provided to the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Monday, police alleged Cook was aged in his 40s when he caused a wave of terror across the Dandenong Ranges. 

An image of a dedicated rape wagon police believe Cook used to assault one victim

An image of a dedicated rape wagon police believe Cook used to assault one victim  

The married father of eight faces dozens of charges, including six counts of rape, abduction of a child under 16, false imprisonment, making threats to kill and sexual penetration of a child under 16. 

The court heard Cook had been able to cover his tracks by his using his skills as a panel beater to construct and hide vehicles. 

Cook has been running ProCar Collision Repair Centre, in Abbotsford, for more than three decades.

On September 24, 1998, detectives claim Cook picked up a 15-year old hitchhiker at about 8.45pm on Belgrave-Gembrook Road near the Belgrave railway station. 

Once inside, he held a silver handgun to her head and drove her to a secluded area along a dirt track when he repeatedly raped her at gunpoint over 45 agonising minutes. 

When he was finished, he dumped the girl on the outskirts of Emerald and fled into the night. 

While the terrified teenager was able to provide a detailed description of her attacker and his vehicle, including its registration number, police were never able to find the car. 

Police search the Dandenong Ranges for clues back in 1998

Police search the Dandenong Ranges for clues back in 1998 

Police claim Cook struck again in December that same year. 

This time his 15-year old victim was targetted as she went to wait for a bus at 7.45am. 

She was just 10 seconds from home when Cook allegedly offered her a lift.  

Again Cook allegedly pulled a silver handgun and drove her to a dirt track off Kallista-Emerald Road in The Patch. 

This time he was driving a moroon-coloured 4WD wagon, which although clean, reeked of cigarette smoke. 

The victim later described being forced at gunpoint into the rear of the vehicle where her attacker had placed a mattress. 

Upon entry, Cook allegedly erected curtains covering the side and rear windows. 

He told her to cover here eyes before repeatedly raping her in the back of the wagon and dumping her. 

Again the teen was able to provide a detailed description of her attacker and the vehicle, which has never been found. 

In opposing Cook’s release on bail, Detective Senior Constable Shaun O’Meara said not only does Cook resemble photofit images provided by his alleged victims, but his DNA matched that taken from his victims’ at the time. 

‘The accused had access to a wide variety of vehicles and he had the ability to utilise customer vehicles at his discretion, he had the ability and know how to modify vehicles, transfer number plates and had intimate knowledge of the offence locations,’ he said. 

The detective claimed both of Cook’s alleged victims believed they would never make it out of his car alive. 

‘Both believed they were experiencing the last minutes of their lives,’ he said. 

Police search for clues in 1998. DNA was taken from Cook's alleged victims, which they say matches his

Police search for clues in 1998. DNA was taken from Cook’s alleged victims, which they say matches his 

The court heard Cook had prior convictions for dishonesty matters dating back to the 1960s and 70s and had more recently been charged over a domestic violence offence. 

In arguing for his release, Cook’s lawyer Emily Clark said her client’s sister would put up a $500,000 surety to ensure he complied with any bail conditions. 

Magistrate Kieran Gilligan agreed the risk of Cook reoffending while on bail could be mitigated by the surety. 

He also said Cook intended to challenge DNA evidence including samples taken from the alleged victims at the time and a sample taken from him during his police interview. 

Police last month launched a public appeal, calling for those who hitchhiked in Melbourne’s Dandenong Ranges in the late 1990s to share their experiences. 

Cook will return to court on November 17. 

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