A French national travelling through the northern rivers had a lucky escape on Sunday after he outwitted a knife-wielding hitch-hiker.
The man, who for safety reasons wishes to remain anonymous, told his story exclusively to Echonetdaily.
He said the drama began when he pulled over his Mitsubishi Express van to pick up the hitch-hiker on the Bruxner Highway between Casino and Tabulam.
He described the hitch-hiker as a middle-aged male Causasian, with greying hair and beard, about 185cm tall and well muscled. His arms were covered in fading tattoos and his clothes also looked faded, the driver told us.
The hitch-hiker told the driver he was travelling home, a little way out of Tabulam, and asked if he could stop in town to use the phone.
The driver agreed and then followed the hitch-hiker’s directions out of Tabulam, and about 2km along a dirt road.
The driver told Echonetdaily, ‘that was when his mood changed’.
‘He told me to stop the van, and I asked him if this was where he lived. He told me, “no, my brother’s going to pick me up from here”.
‘I got out of the van to stretch my legs and the next thing I knew he was holding a knife at my throat.
‘He grabbed my necklace, which was made of fabric, and tied my hands with it. Then he got into the driver’s seat and shut the door.
‘I thought he was going to drive off and leave me in the middle of nowhere so I held onto the open window and pleaded for him to at least give me my passport. He looked around and said he couldn’t find it and again prepared to drive off.
‘I kept holding onto the driver’s side door and pleaded with him not to abandon me.
‘Eventually he pushed the door open and told me to get in.’
‘I ran around the van and got into the passenger seat and he drove off, still holding the knife. By this time he had also grabbed my mobile phone and $600, which had been sitting in a hutch in the dashboard console.
‘The man drove back onto the highway towards Tabulam and turned off onto another dirt road closer to town.
‘We must’ve driven along that road for about 20 minutes,’ the traveller told Echonetdaily.
‘Every three or four minutes I kept asking him where we were going and he told me if I didn’t shut up he would cut my tongue out.’
Eventually the man stopped the van and turned it around. He forced its owner out, telling him he was going to tie him to a tree.
‘He started walking off into the bush. I said, “there are plenty of trees around, just tie me to one of these”. But he told me just to keep walking.
‘Suddenly it occurred to me that he didn’t have anything to tie me up with. That’s when I thought that maybe he planned to kill me.
‘By this time we were walking uphill, so I was above him. I spun around, knocking him to the ground and ran back to the van.’
By a stroke of luck the hitch-hiker had left the van running and facing in the direction it had come.
The vehicle’s owner was able to remove the ties around his hands and drive off, leaving the hitch-hiker, his $600 and his mobile phone behind.
His van was impounded by Lismore police for forensic examination and Casino detectives are investigating.
Police are urging anyone with information about this incident to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or use the Crime Stoppers online reporting page: https://www.police.nsw.gov.au/.