A suspicious fire in a shop next door to a tobacconist in Oakleigh is likely linked to a series of recent arson attacks on cigarette shops across Melbourne, Victoria Police have said.
Australian Federal Police forensic officers joined Victoria Police’s arson and explosives squad to scour the latest burnt out store on Wednesday, while the state’s specialised anti-bike units have also joined the investigation.
Police and fire crews were called to 30-32 Station Street, Oakleigh to find a two-storey building damaged by fire about 3.20am on Wednesday 6 September 2023.
A crime scene was set up around an accounting firm and tobacconist shopfronts as detectives investigate the cause of the fire.
The Harry Scapetis Certified Practising Accountants office was severely damaged by fire with its inside completely black.
The carpet, a few chairs and an old reception desk was severely burnt.
It was observed that the property is currently up for lease via local agent Jim LAZOGAS.
The online real esate listing states “30 Station Street Oakleigh is also available – Opportunity to take over boutique established law practice. Retiring practitioner with over 20 years in practice.”
It’s understood the owner of the original building is currently on a Greek holiday enjoying his retirement.
Tradesmen working to fix the tobacconist’s roller door say there was no damage to the inside of the cigarette shop. The Toorak Times were on scene at approx. 1:40pm today, when electricians from Vicwide Sparkies attended the shop to do some call-out work.
Victoria Police on Wednesday said they believe the latest fire is linked to a series of arson attacks across the city linked to the illegal tobacco trade.
“The investigation into the fire remains ongoing and at this time, police believe it is likely to be connected to a recent series of arson attacks,” Victoria police said.
“Detectives from a range of Crime Command units including the Arson and Explosives Squad, Echo Taskforce and VIPER Taskforce are investigating the series which is believed to be linked to the illicit tobacco trade in Victoria.
“Police are also working closely with a range of state and federal agencies including the ABF (Australian Border Force) and AFP as part of this investigation in order to disrupt the syndicates involved and hold those responsible for this offending to account.”
Neighbouring shop owners say the tobacco store has only been open in Station St for around four weeks.
It’s understood three tobacco stores have opened within five weeks in the Oakleigh area.
Another nearby tobacconist, who wished not to be named, said she feared for her shop after hearing of so many arson attacks recently.
“I feel very unsafe, I am worried about fire and people coming in here,” she said. “It’s very scary.”
All images by Lord Murray Schoorman of Peak Hour Images (c)