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Bond University’s Dr Terry Goldsworthy, who served in the Queensland police for 28 years, said the unexpected removal of much of the Rebels’ leadership had led the gang being in a “state of flux” with the possibility of internal power plays spilling over into more violence.
Darren Wallace, a sergeant-at-arms of the Rebels and owner of a tattoo parlour, was executed in broad daylight on the forecourt of the Shell Coles Express servo in the quiet country town of Picton, southwest of Sydney.
Fellow Rebels member Tevita Daunibau is thought to have murdered Wallace before turning the gun on himself.
The body of Daunibau, who served 12 years in the Australian Defence Force, was found in a creek behind a nearby church.
Wallace is reported to have pleaded for his life before the shooting, saying “don’t do it”.
Dr Goldsworthy said the conspicuousness of the murder, at a busy service station during the middle of the day and just metres from a police station, was surprising.
“It’s unusual in that when they do these things it’s usually with minimal witnesses, at night and with people wearing balaclavas whereas yesterday’s incident was quite overt,” he told news.com.au. “You’d have to question the state of mind of the alleged offender and that may have influence how the act was carried out rather than a more traditional shooting.”
The Rebels are Australia’s largest outlaw motorcycle club with an estimated 2000 members and 70 branches dotted throughout the country. However the club, which has a fierce rivalry with other gangs such as the Comancheros, Bandidos and Hells Angels, has suffered after much of the organisation’s top brass was wiped out.
In 2014, Rebels boss Alex Vella had his Australia visa revoked when he was out of the country. Vella, who had been an Australian resident for 47 years, remains stranded in his home country of Malta.
Dubbed the Maltese Falcon, the 61-year-old has described his visa ban as an assault “against human rights” and said he now spends his days attending church and writing poetry.
“I have my family, my businesses, my properties in Australia. Everyone has a hobby in life and mine is riding motorcycles,” Vella told the Daily Telegraph. He denied the Rebels was a criminal organisation.
Shortly afterwards, high ranking Rebels member Simon Rasic died of a suspected heart attack.
“They are really in disarray with their boss Alex Vella stuck in Malta and their long-term sergeant of arms Simon Rasic dying last year,’’ a senior police source told the Telegraph last month.
Dr Goldsworthy said Vella’s exile had led to a sudden transfer in power to his son, “Big D” Damien.
“The Rebels are in a state of flux. When you have the removal of senior leadership if that transference isn’t done smoothly it can lead to the organisation becoming disrupted,” he said.
Last August, a dispute erupted between Vella junior and Troy Cusens, the president of the Rebels’ Mt Druitt chapter in Sydney’s west, after an incident where another gang member was shot at and beaten.
“The Rebels live by a fairly rough code and what’s interesting is the victims have been office holders and usually it’s the office holders who are dishing out the punishment,” Dr Goldsworthy said.
NO BAR TO VIOLENCE
Dr Goldworthy said individual bikies often used violence to assert their dominance.
“Generally they treat each other fairly well but when there is friction within a group there is no bar to violence being used as discipline. There’s a flexing of muscles attempting to intimidate within their own groups to ensure they get positions of power,” he said.
The sudden change at the top of the Rebels would have been unsettling for the people who join the illegal clubs, he said.
“One of the attractions of motorcycle gangs is their tribal-like hierarchy and the group think that goes with that. It’s a bit like the army. You need firm guidance to tie these type of personalities together so if you don’t have clear leadership those types of personalities may become disrupted,” he said.
Dr Goldsworthy speculated that between attending church and penning poems Vella senior probably found time to keep a handle on events in Australia but his distance would considerably weaken his influence.
“Just physically not being there is not necessarily an impediment but … it forces them to communicate electronically and the footprint you leave behind is a major law enforcement tool so you don’t have advantage of face-to-face contact,” he said.
“You’re also not in a position to do any physical intimidation and sometimes that added impetus of non-verbal cues can be very important and very powerful.”
This year the police have arrested more than 300 members and associates of the Rebels while a number of the gang’s clubhouses have also been closed down, including in the organisation’s southwestern Sydney stronghold.
While unusual, yesterday’s murder is not the first time a bikie-linked killing has occurred so publicly.
In 2009, a massive brawl engulfed Sydney Airport’s Qantas domestic terminal, which led to the death of Hells Angel member Anthony Zervas, who was repeatedly kicked, punched and struck with a metal bollard at the terminal’s check-in counters.
RUSH HOUR MURDER
Hells Angels bikie Christopher Wayne Hudson is serving a minimum 35-year jail term for shooting dead lawyer Brendan Keilar in the middle of Melbourne CBD at the height of the morning rush hour in June 2007.
Mr Keilar came to the aid of Hudson’s girlfriend, who the bikie member was assaulting before the attack occurred.
However, neither of these incidents were premeditated and, in Hudson’s case, was due to an all-night drugs and booze bender.
While gangs are known for their like of tit-for-tat attacks, Dr Goldsworthy said it was unlikely that would occur after yesterday’s incidents.
“I think there was something deeper underlying this one and I’d be surprised if there’s any great follow-on. It strikes me as unique incident and both parties are deceased so where is the flow-on from there?” he said.
However, it didn’t mean a rival gang wouldn’t take advantage of the Rebels’ woes.
“Criminal groups are entrepreneurial in nature and if they see an opening in a market, like any good entrepreneur, they will take it,” Dr Goldsworthy said.