The driver was eventually overpowered by a police officer who smashed a cabin window before flooding it with pepper spray in Teralba, around 20km west of Newcastle, in New South Wales. The officer then hit an emergency shutdown button.

It is alleged that the 48-year-old man used the bulldozer – which had been stolen from a nearby mine – to crush three cars in front of the property and another at the side of the building. He then headed towards a detached garage where a 29-year-old man was sleeping at the time.

“When he heard the bulldozer coming over the top of the cars he came out of the shed,” said police spokesman David Matthews, talking to ABC. The bulldozer briefly pursued the man until he escaped by scaling a fence. The driver then turned his attention to the house – demolishing it just seconds after a neighbour had rushed to assist a 56-year-old woman and her two daughters, aged 15 and 20, from the property.

Inspector Matthews said the driver, who had previously lived with the family, had breached a court order imposed to protect one of the women living in the flattened house. The arrested man is expected to face around 11 charges in total.