Tradie left $15,000 in debt from brazen street heist as alarming theory emerges

Melbourne electrician Shannon Powell believes tradies' cars are being targeted by the same person after $15k worth of tools were stolen in front of his home.

Tradie Shannon Powell at work with pet dog.
Shannon Powell, a Melbourne electrician, discovered $15k worth of tools had been stolen from his work van parked outside his home as he slept. Source: Supplied

A brazen heist outside a tradesman's home has left him $15,000 in debt after an alleged thief ransacked his work van parked on the street and stole his expensive tools while he slept.

Shannon Powell contacted Yahoo News Australia after seeing our chat with fellow tradie Chris Wall who claimed he had $14,000 worth of tools stolen from his vehicle outside his home — and it was a telling detail in Wall's story that prompted an alarming theory from Powell.

The 24-year-old believes it's possibly the same bandit targeting hardworking tradies around Melbourne based on CCTV from both incidents, as the sinister trend appears to sweep across the country. Security footage from each incident shows what appears to be the same white ute stopping outside each of their homes. And how the job was done makes Powell believe the thief "has done this before".

CCTv footage showing man allegedly stealing items from blue work van after breaking in.
CCTV footage captured the brazen act outside the Melbourne home, with the alleged thief appearing to take items from the van. Source: Supplied

It was about 3am on Saturday May 11 when Powell, a qualified electrician, says his work van was targeted outside his Pascoe Vale South home, roughly 20kms away from Wall's home in Balwyn. He was "dead asleep" and so too were his parents who "didn't hear a thing".

He didn't realise until he went to leave for work on Monday morning when the indicator light on his van alerted him a door was open, so he stopped to investigate. That's when he discovered his entire tool collection, which he'd been building up since his time as an apprentice, was gone.

He recruited his neighbours to help by providing home security footage, and what he eventually saw completely shocked him.

"He one by one picked up the tools and loaded them into his car very quietly," Shannon told Yahoo News, describing what he saw in the footage. "He did it in such a manner where it's likely he's done this plenty of times before because if you look at the video, he's very calm about it.

"He takes his time. It's not like he's rushing to get in and out of there," Powell continued. "It definitely looks like he's done this multiple times, as well as the fact he knew this van didn't have a car alarm."

The 24-year-old was in disbelief as he watched the entire theft unfold before his eyes as he pieced together CCTV footage from various neighbours — videos he then supplied to Yahoo. One shows a white van with a silver tray, similar to the one seen outside Wall's house, pull up alongside Powell's blue van where it stayed for several minutes. Eventually, a black-hooded figure is seen in the frame.

The figure, believed to be a man, then disappears out of view before once again appearing at the back of the vehicle. This time he's able to lift the door revealing what's inside. For several minutes, the thief appears to transfer items from the van to his own vehicle. After about 20 minutes he drives off.

White ute with silver tray captured on CCTV outside Melbourne homes before alleged tool thefts.
Powell suggests the same person responsible for the theft outside is home (pictured left) is also responsible for another incident four days later (pictured right) as it appears to be the same white ute with silver tray. Source: Supplied

Based on what he saw, Powell claims the person responsible "knew how to jimmy the lock" and force open the side door of the vehicle "with no issues". They even filled their ute tray with supplies before driving off, only to return sometime later to take more after "offloading" the first stash.

"After he took anything he could fit into the tray, he took off slowly down the road without starting the engine and just keeping it quiet," Powell claimed. "Once he got to the cross-intersection halfway up the street, that's when he started the car. Then he took off and then came back later and ransacked the rest of the car".

It was at that point the man in question "got into the drawer at the back of the van with all the power tools". A toolbox, Powell says, can only be accessed using a separate key, and when the back van door is open — which also has a separate lock.

Left: Shannon Powell's power tools inside work van.
The power tools in a locked drawer (pictured left before theft) were taken along with other items. The culprit also undid the panelling inside the van (right) for easy access. Source: Supplied

"When he got into the van, he realised that he couldn't unlock the back door without the key. So from the inside, he undid all the panels, undid all the screws, disconnected all the cabling, broke a few hinges, and then was able to open the back door van from the outside.

"He was very confident in coming back after 20 minutes. He knew exactly what he was doing".

The 24-year-old says the incident made him feel like "someone's invaded your personal space". And while his boss has been "pretty understanding" of the situation, Powell fears he's unable to do his job properly without his selection of tools.

"All you want to do is work, make your money, and be able to afford to pay bills and to look after yourself. It's a tough time financially," he said.

"It takes a big toll on you. I thought, how am I going to be able to work as a tradesman? As a tradesman, you depend on your tools. It's the one thing you depend on. Without your tools, you're not a tradesman."

Inside of Shannon Powell's work van pictured before and after theft of tools outside his home.
Pictures show the items before (left) and after (right) the alleged break in with the thief swiping most of what was inside in the van. Source: Supplied.

Powell noted the high cost of tools admitting it's unlikely he'll be able to replace them anytime soon. He admitted his last resort would be to "sell things off" to make some extra money.

Like Wall, who spoke to Yahoo last week, Powell says he knows several tradies who've fallen victim to tool theft. It's a problem costing Victorian tradies up to $20 million a year, according to The Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV) who say they're a prime target "because [the tools] high value and easily portable".

Powell told Yahoo he reported the incident to police and that an investigation is ongoing. However Victoria Police could not provide any information on the matter.

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