Book reveals life on the run for Stoccos

Belinda Tasker
A new book pieces together parts of the puzzle behind infamous criminals Gino (R) and Mark Stocco

They were once Australia's most wanted men, but while Gino and Mark Stocco are now behind bars, plenty of questions remain about how the father and son duo turned from petty criminals to murderers.

Author and journalist Nino Bucci has pieced together as much of the puzzle as possible in a book about the pair, who were jailed for four decades last year following an eight-year crime spree that culminated in the cold-blooded murder of 68-year-old Rosario Cimone.

Mr Bucci began reporting on the Stoccos during the intense 12-day hunt for them that ended on an isolated property near Dubbo in NSW's central west in October 2015.

He began digging up information while NSW and Victoria police ramped up their search after the Stoccos opened fire on a police officer near Wagga Wagga, generating headlines across the country.

In his book - The Stoccos, Like Father, Like Son - Mr Bucci traces Gino's history.

The son of Italian migrants, Gino left school in Ingham, Queensland to work as a bricklayer, carpenter, cane cutter and petrol station owner, before enduring a painful split from his wife Connie in 1997 - something he later blamed for triggering his life on the run with his son.

Mark Stocco was studying civil engineering at James Cook University in Townsville, but threw that in to start the petrol station with his dad in 2001.

When that failed, they fell into a life of petty crime, which led to short stints behind bars.

When both were released from jail in 2007 after serving time for robbery, criminal damage and other charges, they decided to go "off the radar" because they were "disillusioned with the whole system".

For eight years they travelled between north Queensland, NSW and Victoria working on farms and building up secret stashes of stolen goods - including guns - along the way, as well as a great knowledge of rural back roads they could use as escape routes.

After interviewing several farmers who hired the men, Mr Bucci found they were regarded as hard workers, even if they were "a bit odd" and liked to share a bed.

However he also discovered a pattern of petty arguments between Gino and farmers over something seemingly innocuous, which would cause the Stoccos to suddenly flee.

Weeks later, in the dead of night, they would return to take their revenge by causing tens of thousands of dollars damage to the farm.

"It was really bizarre," Mr Bucci told AAP.

"Even after spending years researching these guys and speaking to as many people as possible about them and what made made them who they are, there are still some questions that you can't completely answer.

"I genuinely can't say why they'd do that. They wouldn't do anything that would make it clear to the people they were about to offend against that what they'd done was considered such a grave mistake that they were going to slash, burn, steal, whatever they could on the property."

By August 2015, Gino was on a list of Australia's 20 most wanted fugitives after three particularly nasty acts of revenge involving extensive property damage and theft.

When the couple the Stoccos were working for on the outskirts of Sydney discovered this, Gino and Mark left and weeks later ended up working on an illegal cannabis farm at Elong Elong, near Dubbo, where Rosario Cimone was a caretaker.

Again, arguments started, but this time Mark ordered his dad to kill Mr Cimone, who was shot and buried in a shallow grave.

The murder forced the Stoccos back on the road.

Police didn't know about the murder when they initially spotted the Stoccos in their stolen 4WD near Wagga Wagga a few days later and tried to give chase.

The Stoccos retaliated by opening fire, triggering what would become a 12-day hunt for the pair, before police cornered them back at the property where Mr Cimone was buried.

During the police hunt for the Stoccos in October 2015, some officers likened the pair to bushrangers.

Mr Bucci prefers to think of them as modern-day swagmen, who instead of wanting to slip a jolly jumbuck into their tucker bags they loaded up on TVs, farm equipment, airconditioners, food and guns.

The Stoccos declined Mr Bucci's requests for interviews for his book. And while many of their former employers agreed to talk, relatives of the Stoccos also refused.

Some of those Mr Bucci did speak with believe the Stoccos may have killed others, and that other people could have been involved in Mr Cimone's killing.

Mr Bucci believes it's unlikely the Stoccos killed anyone else, but quickly adds such an idea can't be ruled out entirely.

"When you are talking about two people who travelled such a vast area and were in such remote parts of the country, I think it's not out of the question," he said.

* The Stoccos, Like Father, Like Son is published by Penguin Random House.