Queanbeyan residents shocked and scared after attack

NEWCOMER: Wayne Ryan has recently moved to Queanbeyan and while he said the murder had shocked him it had not changed his perception of the town's safety. Photo: Jamila Toderas
NEWCOMER: Wayne Ryan has recently moved to Queanbeyan and while he said the murder had shocked him it had not changed his perception of the town's safety. Photo: Jamila Toderas

The adopted home of Queanbeyan has "completely changed" for the friends and colleagues of Zeeshan Akbar who was stabbed to death while at work on April 7.

Like Mr Akbar, many of the migrant staff members had ended up at the Bungendore Road Caltex with a skilled regional visa and had grown to love their new town and bonded as a close group of friends.

Their friendliness and cheerfulness was noted in the endless tributes since the stabbing, with many locals expressing their fondness for the staff last week.

But the alleged murder of their good friend has made the friendship group uneasy about the town they had grown to love.

"We are just frightened at the moment," said Mr Akbar's friend and colleague Hamid Mehmood. "At the moment we don't feel safe because it's a horrifying and terrifying situation."

SAD: Victim Zeeshan Akbar's friends and colleagues, from left, Muhammad Imran, Abdul Wahid, Adnan Amjid, and Hamid Mehmood. Photo: Jamila Toderas

SAD: Victim Zeeshan Akbar's friends and colleagues, from left, Muhammad Imran, Abdul Wahid, Adnan Amjid, and Hamid Mehmood. Photo: Jamila Toderas

Mr Mehmood said Queanbeyan, which had at least two assaults involving teenagers in the week following the alleged stabbing, now seemed eerie and malicious to them.

"We went out [for dinner a few days after the killing] and there was nobody in Queanbeyan outside, there was a kind of terror situation in Queanbeyan," Mr Mehmood said.

"The roads were quiet, you can't see anyone outside, and this was horrifying for us."

The Caltex management hired security for the days after the stabbing but the pain and fear of working in the same place their friend, colleague, and cricket teammate was killed will last a lot longer.

Mr Mehmood said one of his other workmates, Shehroz, was working on his own one night last week and he felt unsafe.

He called Mr Mehmood at midnight and said, "I'm feeling uncomfortable, I can't do it."

They are now also locking every door and window and home.

"We never used to lock the window, we have a glass balcony door, and we never used to lock that," Mr Mehmood said. "But since that day we are just locking the door just to be safe, just to feel that we are safe."

"This is what's happening; it's really hard for us to go to work, it's even hard for us to go outside late at night and we never felt like this before."

REMEMBERED: A candlelight vigil was held for Zeeshan Akbar three days after he was fatally stabbed. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

REMEMBERED: A candlelight vigil was held for Zeeshan Akbar three days after he was fatally stabbed. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

The same sentiments have been shared by many residents of the city on social media following the crime spree last week.

Slavico Ristersici, who works at a Macquoid Street convenience store not far from the service station, said he knew the Caltex staff and had been shocked by the attack.

He said working in town was worrying from about 10pm.

"It's still very scary sometimes, with people coming in on drugs," he said. "I feel sad for all the guys."

Wayne Ryan, who moved to Queanbeyan from Adelaide three weeks ago, said he had regularly used the petrol station, but the attack did not change his perception of the town's safety.

"It was quite shocking at first, because I'd only been there a couple of days before," he said.

"Whenever I walk, except for shopping today, the dog's with me. I don't go out at night, but I'd wouldn't go out at night anywhere anyway."