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Ron Medich murder trial hears of divorce, wire taps, and expensive contract killings

Ron Medich allegedly baulked at spending $300,000 on a contract killing. Photo: Nick Moir Ron Medich arriving at the Supreme Court. Photo: Daniel Munoz
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Lucky Gattellari is the key Crown witness against Ron Medich. Photo: Daniel Munoz

Lucky Gattellari, the Crown’s star witness, sat in the witness box with a fixed smile on his face, twirling his reading glasses around with some vigour.

He had just listened to a phone tap. It was October 8, 2010 and Ron Medich’s son Peter was heard apologising to Gattellari that his father wasn’t going to be able to meet up at the Babylon massage parlour in Haymarket as arranged.

Gattellari explained to a Supreme Court jury hearing Mr Medich’s murder trial that he and Mr Medich needed to talk in person as they were sure their phone calls were being recorded.

Two days later Peter Medich again phoned to say his father “got caught up – he’s not coming”.

Asked if he saw Mr Medich again, Gattellari replied bitterly: “No, I didn’t. My observation was that he was avoiding me at all costs.”

Gattellari was right to be worried about the fallout of the murder.

On the evening of September 3, 2009, Haissam Safetli, then 45, and 19-year-old Christopher Estephan had driven to the Cremorne home of businessman Michael McGurk where they shot him in the back of the head as he was getting out of his car.

A Supreme Court jury has heard allegations that Mr Medich was enraged over a string of law suits in which he and McGurk were embroiled. It’s alleged that in late 2008 and early 2009, Mr Medich asked his then close friend Gattellari to organise McGurk’s murder.

Gattellari said that after initially baulking at the cost, Mr Medich had agreed to pay the $300,000 Safetli had demanded.

“F—, that’s a lot of money,” he is alleged to have said of the cost.

Gattellari responded saying, “If you don’t want to pay it, let’s forget about it.”

But Mr Medich brushed aside cost issues. “No, it’s all right. I want it done.”

It was now a year after the murder and the police were closing in. A number of those involved in the murder had been hauled before the NSW Crime Commission, the jury heard.

On September 15, 2010 Gattellari organised a meeting inside his lighting factory at Chipping Norton. He told the jury that he thought the noise of the machinery would make it impossible for police to overhear what they were saying.

He was mistaken. As the conspirators talked about the police closing in on them, and their concern that “the kid” [Estephan] would crack, Gattellari was heard urging Safetli to “put his hand up” to save the rest of them.

“If the shit hits the fan, I would like you to put something in your handwriting clearing everybody,” Gattellari instructed.

In return, he promised that Safetli’s family would be looked after and his legal expenses paid for.

The jury heard the only problem with this scheme was that the only man with money, Mr Medich, was making himself scarce.

What none of them knew was that someone had “cracked”. It was Safetli, who was now wearing a listening device.

In another conversation recorded on October 5, 2010, Gattellari expressed the conspirators’ common worry about the police. “I believe every time you go to the toilet they know … they’ve got every f—ing move we make.”

Safetli asked, “How’s the big boss?”

Gattellari replied that he was getting divorced and that he’d been called in twice by the Crime Commission.

“Is he panicking?” asked Safelti, to which Gattellari replied, “No, he’s calm.”

Gattellari told the jury that the “big boss” was Ron Medich.

In another conversation Gattellari told Safetli that the rule of British law was in their favour. “You’re innocent until you’re proven guilty beyond a shadow of a f—ing doubt.”

“You’ve done nothin’ f—ing wrong,” he assured the contract killer.

“I have, Lucky, I am sorry but I have,” replied Safetli. “You’ve got to understand that in my position time is running out.”

Time was running out. Eight days later, on October 13, Gattellari, his driver Senad Kaminic, Safetli and “the kid” Estephan were arrested and charged over the 2009 murder of Mr Medich’s former business partner Michael McGurk.

Gattellari received a substantial discount on his sentence for his role in the murder in return for giving evidence against Mr Medich.

The jury heard that Gattellari had met Safetli and his brother Bassam several years earlier when they were doing some debt collecting work for him.

On one occasion Bassam Safetli said: “If you guys want anything heavy done or even a final job done, we’d been more than happy to help you.”

With Medich allegedly determined to rid himself of McGurk, Gattellari said he organised a meeting with the Safetli brothers, saying: “That comment you made about going further with a job, is that still on the table?”

He said the brothers looked at each other, went to the corner of the room to talk in private and, when they returned, they said they would take the contract.

The following day they said they wanted $300,000 plus expenses for the murder.

But the months dragged on and still the murder, which the conspirators referred to in code as “the tyres”, had not occurred.

Medich, Gattellari said, was continually irritated by the delay. Gattellari had allegedly already collected $250,000 in cash from Medich’s Point Piper home.

Of that amount, $45,000 was given to the Safetlis as an advance on the murder. Gattellari used the rest for his electrical business.

In July he gave the brothers around $6000 in order to go to the snow to kill McGurk while he was on a skiing holiday. But the Safetlis didn’t get organised in time.

Gattellari later suggested that McGurk be killed by a drug overdose as he was “a current user of drugs”.

The murder was eventually done by Haiss Safetli, who was accompanied on the night by Estephan, a 19-year-old friend of his nephew’s. Both pleaded guilty to their roles in the murder.

The trial before Justice Geoffrey Bellew continues.

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