Stolen taxi sparks police hunt across south-west

A man who stole a taxi and was seen driving at speeds of up to 200km/h near Portland evaded police for hours before he was finally caught sleeping in bushes on Saturday.

Senior Constable Tanya Cook, of Camperdown police, said the taxi was stolen from the driveway of a private property in Apollo Bay between 1am and 8am on Saturday.

The taxi was next seen driving dangerously in the Portland area about 10am and a civilian witness estimated it was driving at speeds up to 200km/h, Senior Constable Cook said.

Police later passed the car on the Princes Highway near Codrington, but after doing a u-turn it was decided not to pursue the vehicle because of the high speed and potential danger to the public.

Three units from Warrnambool, Mortlake and Camperdown continued to patrol the area. The taxi was spotted by a member of the public in Port Fairy about 10.45am driving at high speeds and overtaking dangerously, and then by a farmer about midday reversing into a crop of trees in Hexham.

Mortlake police tried to approach the vehicle, but the man drove off. “Police did not pursue because of safety concerns,” Senior Constable Cook said. “It was certainly lucky he didn’t hit anyone else.”

A witness saw the taxi being driven near Chatsworth about 12.45pm, and police later located the locked taxi parked on the Chatsworth-Woorndoo Road about 2.30pm.

The alleged driver, a 40-year-old man from Geelong, was found in nearby farm land sleeping in bushes. He was arrested without incident and will appear in Warrnambool Magistrates’ Court on Monday.