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Fatal shooting of Sydney tattoo
artist Daniel Vella may have been bikie initiation ritual, court hears
By Jessica Kidd
Updated about 7 hours ago
A Sydney tattoo artist shot at point-blank range could have been the victim of a bikie gang initiation ritual, a court has heard.
Daniel Vella, 40, was shot while tattooing a client at the Pretty in Ink parlour at Ryde in Sydney's north in March 2011.
Security footage of the shooting shows two hooded men wearing pink washing-up gloves walking into the shop from a back door.
Vella can be seen working on a client while another tattoo artist works on a second customer.
One of the hooded men then walks up to Vella, holds a revolver towards him from less than a metre away and shoots him in the left shoulder.
He then fires another four shots into the walls and ceiling of the parlour before fleeing out the back door with the other hooded man.
I believe I know who actually shot Daniel; unfortunately we don't have the evidence.
Detective Sergeant Timothy Atwood
The bullet that lodged in Vella travelled down to his abdomen, causing extensive injuries.
He was taken to Royal North Shore Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
On Monday, an inquest at the Glebe Coroner's Court into Vella's death heard the tattoo artist did not have any serious problems with any person or group and was not the specific target of the shooting.
Counsel assisting the inquest, Steve Kelly, quoted the lead investigator when he told the hearing: "Daniel was an innocent party who was in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Lead investigator Detective Sergeant Timothy Atwood was the only witness to appear before the inquest and said police had two theories about Vella's shooting.
Police believed it was either an initiation ritual for someone hoping to become a member of an outlaw motorcycle gang, or that it may have been an outlaw motorcycle gang seeking to send a message to the owners of the tattoo parlour.
Detective Sergeant Atwood told the hearing Vella had a strong dislike of bikies and the bikie gang culture, especially their extensive links to the tattoo industry.
But he added that he did not think Vella was specifically targeted because of his opinions.
"We found no information to suggest he had any serious problems with any person or group ... certainly nothing to warrant this type of retaliation," Detective Sergeant Atwood told the court.
'I believe I know who shot Daniel'
Detective Sergeant Atwood said homicide detectives had identified three potential suspects, known only as person A, B and C, and that person A was considered to be the primary shooter.
"I believe I know who actually shot Daniel; unfortunately we don't have the evidence," he said.
"The people we believe are involved have a culture of not assisting police and we believe that culture makes eliciting any information difficult."
Detective Sergeant Atwood added that police had not been able to establish any links between Vella and person A.
Coroner Harriet Grahame, in releasing her findings on the inquest, recommended that a substantial monetary reward be offered for any information which leads to a conviction for Vella's murder.
Ms Grahame also recommended that the case be referred to the unsolved homicide unit for further investigation.
In delivering her findings, Mr Grahame said she was satisfied the police had done everything in their power to try and charge those responsible, but said the case was one of great concern.
"Unfortunately the matter of [Vella's] death is essentially an unsolved homicide," she said.
"This case is concerning as it is clear that two potentially violent people remain at large, despite extensive police investigation."