A mother and her two teenage sons had fled to her parents' home to escape a deteriorating domestic relationship just five days before they were allegedly discovered and violently kidnapped by her former partner, his adult son and another man on Tuesday in the state's central west, police say.
The extraordinary crime spree involved a serious assault, an arson attack, and a kidnapping; alleged acts described by police as "heinous, dangerous" and "wild".
The events prompted a statewide police chase that began in the early hours of Tuesday morning at a property in Ootha, near Condobolin, and ended shortly before midnight in bushland almost 400 kilometres away.
On Wednesday, 29-year-old Samuel Towney, reportedly from the Hunter Region, and a 23-year-old man, who cannot be named, were charged over the events. A 44-year-old man, who also cannot be named, was charged later on Wednesday. He is the father of the 23-year-old man.
All three men face charges including setting fire to a dwelling with intent to murder, kidnapping and aggravated break and enter.
"I don't know if I've experienced [an operation] so complex as what was required yesterday," State Crime Commander and Acting Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith said on Wednesday.
The violent ordeal began around 5.30am at a property on Henry Parkes Way, Ootha, near Condobolin, when the three men allegedly forced their way into the home, where a 69-year-old man, and a 71-year-old woman - the home owners - were residing.
Also in the house was the woman's 41-year-old daughter and her sons, aged 14 and 13, who had arrived at the property five days earlier to escape a deteriorating relationship.
Once inside, the three men allegedly held the occupants under duress, assaulting the 68-year-old man several times and dragging him to the rear of the property, where he was bound and left in a back room.
Police will allege the 44-year-old man then kidnapped the older woman, her daughter and the two teenage boys, driving from the premises in a 1998 green Toyota four-wheel-drive.
At this time it is alleged Mr Towney and the 23-year-old man remained at the property, pouring 20 litres of accelerant throughout the house and setting it alight. The resulting fire would see it completely razed to the ground.
The two men then left the premises, with the 68-year-old man still inside, locking the gate.
A short time later the 68-year-old regained consciousness and broke free, managing to walk one kilometre to his nearest neighbour, who found the man near a piece of farm machinery.
He had been hit over the head with a shotgun and had a 15-centimetre-long visible skull wound.
"I think it [his escape] is extraordinary considering his age," Acting Assistant Commissioner Smith said.
"He had to break free from his bindings, he fell in and out of consciousness a number of times throughout the ordeal. Hats off to his bravery."
Once local police had been notified, a massive police operation began, which would involve general duties officers, highway patrol, PolAir and the dog squad, with detectives from the Robbery and Serious Crime Squad establishing a strike force to recover the women and children.
As the manhunt continued throughout the day, police utilised vision from the state Transport Management Centre and systems from the Roads and Maritime Services, all coordinated by the NSW Police real-time intelligence centre.
It was thought at the time the men, who were in two separate cars, might be travelling to the Hunter region or the Central Coast, but the operation eventually ended around Windsor in Sydney's west.
Throughout the afternoon police engaged with the assailants and a vehicle pursuit began, however it was eventually terminated "due to the driving behaviour of the individual".
About 7.15pm, the first of two of the vehicles stopped on the roadside on Putty Road, near Colo, allowing the older woman and two boys to escape to a neighbouring property where they were taken into the care of police.
A short time later Mr Towney and the 23-year-old man were arrested near Sackville and taken to Windsor police station, where they were charged with various offences.
The operation culminated in pursuit of the 41-year-old woman, who was still allegedly being held against her will by the 44-year-old man.
About 11.30pm, officers from the Tactical Operations Unit and dog squad, with the assistance of PolAir and thermal imaging, located the man and the woman in dense bushland near Blaxlands Ridge.
He was arrested and taken to hospital for treatment and examinations. The 44-year-old was refused bail to appear at Parramatta Local Court on Thursday.
The woman was taken into the care of local police before being reunited with her family.
Neither Mr Towney, nor the 23-year-old applied for bail on Wednesday, however bail for both was formally refused. They will reappear before Parkes Local Court on December 17.
The Sydney Morning Herald