Marissa Calligeros, 23 September 2015

A service station attendant was in fear for his life when a masked bandit squirted petrol on him and threatened to set him alight in Glen Waverley on Sunday morning.

The robber stormed into the Caltex service station on Springvale Road holding a large knife and Powerade bottle filled with petrol about 4.30am.

He squirted petrol from the drink bottle onto the attendant and threatened to set him on fire if he did not hand over cash from the till.

Detective Senior Constable Jason Stewart said the robber nearly emptied the entire 600-millilitre bottle of petrol over the attendant and the front counter.

“The threat of being set on fire was imminent and the attendant was certainly in fear of his life,” he said.

It is understood the offender also threatened to blow up the entire service station.

The 23-year-old attendant handed over a small amount of cash and the bandit ran from the store.

The offender, who is believed to be aged in his 40s, was wearing a dust mask over his face, a hooded jumper and a high-visibility yellow windcheater.

The attendant has returned to work despite the frightening ordeal, radio station 3AW reported.

Having recently emigrated from India to study IT, he had only been working at the service station for two weeks when the hold-up occurred.

Chief Police Commissioner Graham Ashton said police were confident the high-quality CCTV footage of the robbery would help catch the offender quickly.

“It’s one we really do want to solve, absolutely. Let’s make sure we catch this idiot,” he told 3AW.

Service station hold-ups usually involve a knife and last about 23 seconds, said Mark McKenzie, chief executive of the Australasian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association.

But Mr McKenzie said offenders were becoming more aggressive, particularly in areas where petrol drive-offs were not seen to be taken seriously police.

“Where there is a fairly obvious lack of enforcement of fuel drive-offs some elements of the community almost think we’re a lawless zone that is fair game,” he told 3AW.

“The community think, ‘OK this is a fair target for straight theft’.

“Service stations basically run around the clock, so we are always seen as a soft target … but the nature of the aggression and the more heinous nature of crimes appears to be increasing anecdotally.”

However, Mr Ashton said petrol stations could do more to protect their staff.

“The service station industry can do a lot to better protect themselves, rather than having to have a divvy van on every corner,” he said.

Mr Ashton said pre-paid pumps had been introduced across America and Europe to make service stations safer.

“But the industry here refuses to do it because they want people to go in and buy the chocolate and the chips, because that’s where they make their money,” he said.

“If you look at where the industry is making its money it’s not making its money from the petrol itself, it’s making its money from whats inside that shop.

“Self-protection is also part of the deal here … if you’re a large corporation you need to take measures to protect yourself, as well as relying on police.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 FREE.

Extracted in full from The Age.