Andrew Veniamin, Rocco Arico and Rodney Charles Collins.
Andrew Veniamin, Rocco Arico and Rodney Charles Collins.

What happened to the hitmen behind Melbourne’s gangland war?

SOME are dead, others are in jail - things haven't ended well for Melbourne's underworld hitmen.

They say crime doesn't pay and some were to find that out the hard way when those ordering the executions failed to stump with the cash.

Here's what became of Melbourne's gangland hitmen.

Rodney Collins looking worse for wear after his arrest. Picture: Victoria Police
Rodney Collins looking worse for wear after his arrest. Picture: Victoria Police

 

Rodney Charles Collins

RODNEY Charles Collins was a stone killer who died in May with as many as 10 scalps to his name.

Barely known to the public, his ruthless manner and vile temper made him a force in Melbourne's underworld for decades.

The Herald Sun revealed days after his death that Collins was the likely killer of crime figure Laurie Prendergast, taking his vile tally to 10.

The well-connected man with the double-figure trigger finger is suspected of executing at least three couples during his time as a hot hand.

He was a man who went where the money was, killing for both sides during the Painter and Docker conflict and operating through two gangland wars.

His remorseless, no-questions-asked style made him an in-demand killer for years, well-connected with the likes of A-grade Carl Williams and Tony Mokbel.

When he died in a maximum-security prison, the official Collins death toll stood only at two.

It took decades but Collins had eventually been convicted of murdering drug dealer Ray Abbey and his wife Dorothy at their West Heidelberg home in 1987.

His name had for many years been under heavy scrutiny for the famous execution of Painter and Docker Brian Kane at Brunswick's Quarry Hotel in 1982.

Likewise, the case of drug dealer Michael Schievella and his partner Heather McDonald, murdered in the most horrific fashion at St Andrews in 1990.

Collins, also known by the surname Earle, was the prime suspect in the murder of police informer Terrence Hodson and his wife Christine at their Kew home in 2004.

Crime boss Carl Williams was to later give a statement alleging he paid Collins to kill Hodson and that Christine's death happened because she was unfortunate enough to have been his wife at the time.

The hitman was charged but the prosecution was later withdrawn.

Collins is also a suspect in the 2006 murder of Carlton Crew identity Mario Condello.

He shot dead Patrick Brendan Coughlan at a party in Reservoir in 1983.

Andrew Veniamin with his underworld boss Carl Williams.
Andrew Veniamin with his underworld boss Carl Williams.

Andrew Veniamin

IT'S hard to put a precise figure on Veniamin's total of scalps, but one thing is certain - there were plenty.

Nik Radev, Paul Kallipolitis, Dino Dibra and Victor Peirce were among as many as seven victims of the itchy-fingered former kickboxer from out west.

The fact Kallipolitis and Dibra were good mates only emphasised the ruthless streak of the diminutive gunman.

They partied and holidayed together but, when Carl said someone had to go, Veniamin made it his business to get a result.

Later, the scrutiny on Veniamin started to become something of a liability and his role was usurped by a new shooter.

In the end, Veniamin died at the hands of another old acquaintance.

Mick Gatto shot him at the rear of a Carlton restaurant in what a jury was later to rule was a clear-cut case of self-defence.

Carl Williams, Veniamin and Tony Mokbel in a picture of underworld who’s who. Picture: Supplied
Carl Williams, Veniamin and Tony Mokbel in a picture of underworld who’s who. Picture: Supplied

The Veteran

THEY say you should never write off a champion but even the keenest crime observers were shocked when The Veteran resurfaced during the underworld war.

His crime career stretched back to the 1960s, a Painter and Docker heritage preceding murders, armed robberies and brutal stints at Pentridge Prison.

He's got almost as many legal alerts as victims, so it is hard to tell the full story of The Veteran's activities.

But he was involved in as many as three of the killings.

Within days of one murder, an unknowing reporter rang The Veteran and asked if he'd ever bumped into the victim because of their moving in the same circles.

His heart may have been aflutter at the coincidence but he didn't let it show.

The Veteran coolly reeled off a few lines about the victim being an okay sort of a bloke that he didn't really know that well.

Within weeks, he was arrested and charged with the murder.

The Veteran's lifetime kill count would be as high as a six but - ageing and distrusted - he is a long way from the feared presence of his heyday.

Judy Moran weeps for her slain son Jason Moran at the scene of his shooting.
Judy Moran weeps for her slain son Jason Moran at the scene of his shooting.

The Runner

THIS bloke had been part of Australia's criminal landscape for many years before signing up as Carl Williams' number one hitman.

The Runner - named for his fitness fanatic tendencies - was a seasoned armed robber with an appetite for violence and contempt for the law.

He also possessed a cold-blooded nature, something he would have needed to commit three atrocious murders.

The Runner didn't think twice about the risk to others in slaying Jason Moran as he sat in a van at a children's footy clinic in Essendon on June 21, 2003.

Moran's mate Pasquale Barbaro also died in the gunfire while a group of children in the back escaped injury, but not the gruesome sight of two men being executed before their eyes.

The Runner was a suspect almost from day one and under heavy police surveillance when he struck again four months later.

Hot-dog salesman and drug dealer Michael Marshall was shot dead at South Yarra, a crime witnessed by his son.

The Runner was eventually to co-operate with authorities, his hand forced by being arrested over the Marshall killing.

His insider testimony was a major factor in cauterising the bloodshed from the state's most brutal era of criminal conflict.

Dino Dibra

LIKE his old mate Veniamin, it was almost inevitable that Dibra's life would finish on the wrong end of a gun.

Dino Dibra was gunned down outside his Sunshine West home.
Dino Dibra was gunned down outside his Sunshine West home.

It really wasn't even a surprise that the fatal shots were probably fired by Veniamin, such were the volatile underworld loyalties of the time

Both men had been soldiers for Carl Williams as he made his way up Melbourne's crime hierarchy.

Dibra headstone at the Fawkner Cemetery.
Dibra headstone at the Fawkner Cemetery.

Dibra was a strong suspect in the murder of Charles "Mad Charlie" Hegyalji, ambushed as he got home from a night at the pub in 1998.

Hegyalji - no stranger to extreme violence - was most likely killed over friction in the amphetamine trade.

Dibra - facing charges of kidnap and assault - was to get his two years later.

He was ambushed outside his West Sunshine home in a well-organised killing which remains unsolved.

Ange Goussis

THIS former small-time boxer made a push for crime's big-time and was left on the canvas.

Goussis won't be a free man until at least 2039 for his part in two brutal killings, committed in the space of 40 days back in 2004.

Evangelos Goussis who was convicted of the murders of Lewis Caine and Lewis Moran in 2004.
Evangelos Goussis who was convicted of the murders of Lewis Caine and Lewis Moran in 2004.

Moran, on bail for high-level drug dealing, had been warned his life was in danger but either didn't care or thought it would never happen to him.

He was chased briefly around the club then killed after Goussis and an accomplice marched in and opened fire.

Again, it was Carl Williams giving the orders, this time in retaliation for the shooting death a day earlier of his mate Andrew Veniamin.

On May 8, Lewis Caine was found dumped in a Brunswick side street with a gunshot wound to the head.

Goussis was later convicted over both murders.

Rocco Arico

ARICO is the suspected shooter in a killing which may have had the most far-reaching consequences of them all.

The police theory - which has never been proven - is that it was Arico who burst into a room at St Kilda's Esquire Hotel in 2000 and executed standover man Richard Mladenich.

That killing is believed to have been committed on the orders of Arico's boss, Carl Williams

So, when it later became apparent Williams was co-operating with police, Arico - if he was the shooter - would have had good reason to be worried.

Police have never charged Rocco Arico over the shooting of Richard Mladenich.
Police have never charged Rocco Arico over the shooting of Richard Mladenich.

Not bad for a bloke who went inside as a relatively low-level crook following the orders of others.

Anyway, Arico's problem vanished on April 19, 2010, when Williams was bashed to death in Barwon Prison by notorious jailhouse thug Matthew Johnson.

Richard Mladenich.
Richard Mladenich.

Steven Asling

THERE must have been times when Steven Asling thought he would never pay for the execution of Graham Kinniburgh.

But last Saturday - 4829 days after the slaying of the man they called The Munster - the hammer finally fell.

A sentence is yet to be imposed but, at 56, it's unlikely Asling will see the outside of a prison until he is an old man.

Stephen Asling probably thought he would get away with The Munster’s murder. Picture: Nicole Garmston.
Stephen Asling probably thought he would get away with The Munster’s murder. Picture: Nicole Garmston.

Blewitt later disappeared, his body dug up by police in Melbourne's north last year.

As with all the contract killers of the era, Asling didn't exactly walk into the job a cleanskin.

His court appearances, including armed robbery and inflicting grievous bodily harm, stretched back to 1979.

The most noteworthy was the infamous Melbourne Airport armed robbery of 1992 in which accomplice Norman Lee was fatally shot by police and another partner-in-crime, Steve Barci, was wounded.

Noel Faure

NOEL Faure - another of the huge Carl Williams stable of hitmen - had the pedigree to live a violent life and die a lonely death in jail.

Faure was a third-generation criminal whose grandfather was part of Sydney's underworld and whose dad was a veteran and respected Painter and Docker in Melbourne.

He used brutality to solve his problems, whether they were settling a score or in the quest for quick money.

Lewis Moran’s body at the Brunswick Club Hotel. Picture: Ellen Smith
Lewis Moran’s body at the Brunswick Club Hotel. Picture: Ellen Smith

In 1992, the former butcher shot dead mate Frank Truscott after an argument, later describing it as "like killing a sheep."

Faure made his brief move into the big time in 2004 when he was engaged by Williams to kill crime patriarch Lewis Moran.

He and Ange Goussis strolled into the Brunswick Club and opened fire in one of the most public executions of the gangland war.

Moran died at the scene and his drinking buddy Bert Wrout went close to the same fate after being badly wounded.

Faure was later jailed and died on December 30 last year of natural causes at an undisclosed prison location.



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