Why we are here
This brand new blog is "dedicated" to the life, times and more often than not, the deaths of Melbourne Underworld figures. It will include more than just news on the Melbourne crime scene, but also analysis of what's going on, speculation and so on.
If you are from Melbourne, Australia, you might wanna click away, given that reading speculation might preclude you appearing on a jury.
But then again, not being on a jury might be a Good Thing (tm)...
"Benji" goes down
From The Age's website (link below):
A man with connections to Melbourne's criminal underworld was killed today in a shooting outside a restaurant in inner Melbourne.
The victim, known as Andrew "Benji" Veniamin, was shot at a Carlton restaurant, police sources told The Age.
Ambulance spokesman James Howe said the emergency service received a call to attend the scene of a shooting near the corner of Faraday and Rathdowne streets shortly before 3pm (AEDT).
Police refused to confirm the identity of the victim but said a man was being held in custody over the incident.
A little history on Benji and friends
|Crime scene: White fingerprint dust litters the restaurant table near where underworld figure Andrew Veniamin was killed as police warned his associate, accused drug baron Carl Williams, he may be the next victim of Melbourne's underworld war. Photos: Angela Wylie, THE AGE|
The day after his arrest Williams appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates Court. One friend winked and called out to Williams to keep his chin up. The friend, known as Benji, has been implicated in several unsolved murders.
So Carl Williams bodyguard and mate has been killed. Williams himself said that he might be killed. Everything points to this being inevitable now.
The Sunday program (link below) recently broadcast a segment about the underworld murders and the Williams family in particular featured. Carl and Williams tried to infer that they were just an ordinary suburban family- somehow caught up in this underworld gangland thing:
Carl Williams' constant companion, Andrew "Benji" Veniamin, is also a suspect in several gangland hits. But once again, according to Roberta, everyone has it wrong. She says Benji is just misunderstood: "He's a good quiet guy who’s great with kids, loves the kids. I don't leave my children with anybody and I would leave them with Andrew before I would leave them with anybody else."
While watching it one couldn't help ask the question "Have they hired a media liaison or publicist?" It was, to say the least, a very "front foot" (cricket!) move.
Well, his "non-bodyguard-just-a-good-friend" days are over forever.
Adam Shand from "Sunday" "Andrew stays very close to Carl, is he a bodyguard?" She replied: "No, Andrew's a friend and a good friend at that. We go shopping together Andrew and I … and we go shopping with the kids. He's certainly not a bodyguard."
ADAM SHAND: And who might be next to go in this tragic comedy is the question all the underworld is asking. Could it be Lewis Moran, the patriarch who has lost his sons, Mark and Jason? It might be Carl Williams or maybe “Benji” will take a bullet for his boss. Williams is obviously well aware of the precarious position he is now in.
|Carl Williams. In one of the more bizarre moments following Benji's death, he flagged down a passing motorist (unknown to him) and got them to drive him away. He got out and then hid in the toilets of a service station. Is this the action of a tough guy gangster, or a man running scared?|
Benji's name has been mentioned as the killer of Mark Moran but it didn't stop him placing a death notice in the Herald Sun that read "You are a true sincere gentleman never to be forgotten - Love Benji".
The Age again:
Carl Williams, another well-known underworld figure who is on bail after being charged with threatening to kill a policeman and his partner and with drug offences, appeared at the scene some time after the shooting.
Reporters attempted to question Williams who ran off and locked himself in a toilet at a nearby service station before being whisked away by a friend who arrived in a car.
I think one can assume that the driver of the car was wife Roberta Williams.
The ABC website is reporting it as follows:
It is believed the man helping police with their inquiries is Mick Gatto, a former boxer and an associate of Jason Moran and Graham Kinniburgh, both of whom were gunned down last year.This doesn't have all the hallmarks of a hit (more on that below). It was very public, an argument involved and then a shooting. At a guess I'd say it was spontaneous or an unlucky coincidence. It seems that one group (Williams et al) kicked off this round of killing and can't finish the job. Carl is alone without Brincat and Benji. Will he act alone now? His bolt to the toilets shows he won't. He's either dead or nothing.
Police say two men got into an argument inside the restaurant moments before the shooting.
And the Underworld don't let you retire gracefully.
How did/might this have played out?
"Mr Gatto and friends were eating a late lunch and sipping coffees about 2.40pm at La Porcella restaurant.
Veniamin, known in underworld circles as Benji, double-parked his sports car and ran into the restaurant on the corner of Faraday and Rathdowne streets.
According to witnesses, Veniamin confronted Mr Gatto, an underworld heavyweight and former boxer widely known as "Mick" and a staunch supporter of the Moran clan and friend of Kinniburgh."
|Andrew 'Benji' Veniamen- dead at 28.|
"Yesterday the lunch crowd at the restaurant, at the corner of Rathdowne and Faraday streets, had almost petered out by 2.30pm.
One insider described the regular patron as "tense" in the moments leading to the shooting.
"He wasn't his usual self," the source said.
"Mick is a pretty jolly fellow, but he wasn't as friendly as he normally is.
"He was very serious looking. I don't know if he was looking for something to happen. People here are always looking over their shoulder."
About 2.40pm Veniamin double-parked outside the restaurant, leaving his silver sports car idling as he ran inside.
During a violent struggle, it is alleged that Mr Gatto shot him. "
Note the line "leaving his silver sports car idling as he ran inside..." Not the actions of a man expectying to enjoy a few hours in Gatto's company. Car going, running in. Urgency.
In a twisted sort of way, one can understand Williams taking out the opposition. The Morans had already tried to kill him when they shot him in '99. So fair enough he knocks them. Knocking Marshal, Radev, Dibra, Mallia, Thompson (there are more, but hey, time is of the essence here!) may have been pure business decisions too, but knocking off Kinniburgh was just pure gangster showmanship. Analogy? You are the new kid at school looking to make your mark. You seek out the toughest, biggest kid in the school and king hit him when no one's around. Then you hope like fuck that's enough to scare everyone else off.
It seems the Underworld tolerated Williams et al (Brincat, Benji) going around and knocking off the competition, but the killing of Kinniburgh made it very personal, and perhaps "something" had to be done. The options for Gatto's crew: knock Williams et al, or call a truce. As John Silvester pointed out, there is money to be made and long term you can't go around knocking each other ad infinitum. At some stage there will be a vacuum. Carl Williams has moved partiallly into this vacuum over the past few years. Stoppping this murderous flood seems logical for all parties. But logic doesn't always get a run. Herald Sun:
IT WAS revealed Mr Williams and his bodyguard, Veniamin, were seen in a heated argument with Mr Gatto at Crown casino, days after the death of Kinniburgh.
"Heated argument"? Perhaps Gatto was making overtures about a truce? He seems the most likely person to make this approach. But Williams crew seem to have the upper hand, so whats in it for them? Power and all that.
Added to the psycholgical sustenance, it seems ol' Benji was fond of the sponsors product. This email sent to MU:
I Was in line with Benji out the front of the Magistrates court a couple of weeks ago. His Celtic tattoos on his arms were doing somersaults they were on that much gooey. *
Seems this may have some truth, as Benji became a LOT erratic lately. Herald Sun:
But Veniamin was a known hothead, who sources said started "going nuts and losing the plot" about eight months ago.
"He was getting carried away, driving his $200,000 Mercedes while tooled up (carrying a gun)," a former detective told the Herald Sun.
"He wouldn't leave home without a rosco (gun). He wouldn't even go to the bathroom without one. He was paranoid, and a lot of people started distancing themselves because he was getting out of control and upsetting people left, right and centre."
MU Says: If one was to guess, it looks like they (Gatto's people) might have been calling a truce. Gatto is low profile. Sure he's high profile by our standards, but low profile as a crim. If he wanted to knock Benji, he just would have done it- and Carl and probably the wife too. Nomally she'd be ok (on account of the kids) but she's high profile now too. Hard to say.
|Mick Gatto- Landscaper, negotiator, man about town. Charged with the murder of Andrew "Benji" Veniamen.|
Ok so you call a meeting. It seems that Williams didn't know about it or was DELIBERATELY distancing himself by "dropping Benji home" (a lie: Benji never leaves his side. On their QLD holiday Benji not only went with Carl and Roberta, he even went bodysurfing with Carl- and he can't fucking swim!). Carl has form when it comes to alibis- he was out getting drunk in a restaurant with his lawyer the night Kinniburgh got whacked too! Good public show is the best alibi when someone else is doing your dirty work.
Anyway so they call a meeting for a truce. Carl has no intention of going. Gatto chooses his highly visible restaurant hangout coz he thinks it's safe. Benji just rocks in without Carl, without any goodwill about a truce, full of goey and tooled up, ready to rock. He says "Gatto you and your mob are fucking finished, fuck off" a gun is produced, a shot gets fired... bye bye Benji.
We'll see. The truth might never get a run...
The Death Notices
When an Underworld figure gets killed, it's a tradition to send in fake messages from people who that person has knocked. Here at MU we're keeping a close eye on the Herald Sun for such messages.
So for, it's been family and friends only. Silence from the Williams', but this very interesting note from his girlfriend:
VENIAMIN. _ Andrew.
I never thought someone I used to be so scared of, could turn out to be my oxygen. Despite what everyone thought of me, you stood by me. You were my life Benji. I love you. See you in Heaven babe. _ Ebony.
"someone I used to be so scared of", "despite what everyone thought of me", "See you in heaven.."?
VENIAMIN. _ Andrew.
Benji, my true friend, youre always in my heart. This isnt the end, you're one of a kind. A true soldier, respect and loyalty you were one honest beholder. Ill see you in Heaven cause thats where you are. Youre my angel. Love forever
_ Chris O_.
Wishful thinking re: benji in heaven. Underworld families are always keen to tell everyone "He's heaven" when he's clearly not. Benji might have been an angel to some, but there are one or two or more people who are not around today thanks to his trigger work. How bout we leave the finals decision to say... God?
That said, it looks like ol' Chris O is out for revenge: "This isn't the end". It's a gangland tradition to announce your intentions via the death notices. Always and ONLY in the Herald Sun too!
We here at MU like Kath Pettingill's line about going to heaven or not:
"I'm not going to heaven and I'm glad. I wouldn't know anyone"
By the way- I'd say I am off the jury in these cases. If you read these words- you are too...
Full coverage- The Age
Full coverage- The Herald Sun
The Sunday program
The Sunday Program transcript
The Age- Wise guys, tough guys, dead guys
Dominic "Mick" Gatto profile on MelbourneCrime.com
Mick Gatto's recent "work"
Melbourne Crime website- Updated with some detail of Benji