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When Sabrine Maghnie learned her brother had been critically shot in the same curbside attack which ended the life and criminal career of standover man Gavin Preston, her first instinct was to rush to his hospital bed. Instead, she was ordered by her mother to stay well away.
Understanding what this means could hold a clue for homicide detectives working to identify the masked assailant who on Saturday killed Preston and wounded Abbas Junior Maghnie, known as AJ, as the pair were chatting over coffee and orange juice at a Keilor East cafe.
A still from CCTV footage shows a killer dressed in black approaching Gavin Preston before he is shot at a cafe.
Sabrine Maghnie, one of five children of slain underworld enforcer Nabil Maghnie, is at the centre of a bitter rift within one of Melbourne’s most prominent crime families. A cause of it appears to be her star-crossed love affair with a member of the Marrogis, a rival criminal clan.
Her lover, Jesse Marrogi, enraged Preston, a trusted criminal confidant to her late father, to the point that Preston threatened upon his release from prison to not only beat Marrogi senseless but rape him.
Jesse Marrogi is the younger brother of George Marrogi, a crime patriarch currently in Barwon Prison serving 32 years for murder and drug trafficking. George Marrogi and Nabil Maghnie each tried to kill the other before Maghnie was shot dead and Marrogi jailed. Maghnie’s killer has never been charged.
Police are aware of gangland rumours that Sabrine Maghnie met with Preston between three and four weeks ago. They are also continuing to investigate last month’s apparently botched attempt to steal the body of Meshilin Marrogi, George’s late sister, from the family crypt at Preston General Cemetery.
Preston was released from Barwon Prison in April, having served 11 years for killing a drug trafficker and wounding another in self-defence. His al fresco assassination at a popular suburban shopping centre rekindled fears that Melbourne is on the brink of another gangland war.
The brazen nature of the assassination and serious criminal figures involved prompted Premier Daniel Andrews to reassure the city and warn anyone seeking retribution to hold fire.
“No one should underestimate the resolve of Victoria Police to fight crime and to keep us safe,” he said.
“It’s very important that every Victorian knows and understands that Victoria Police have more resources, more powers than they have ever had. They have everything they need to fight crime and keep us safe, including a steely resolve to get to the bottom of these sorts of incidents.
Warning: The video below shows highly confronting scenes. The footage has been edited to exclude some moments.
“Anyone in the criminal element across our state who underestimates Victoria Police resolve, that’s not a wise choice to make.”
The family dynamics of the Maghnies and their bloody feud with the Marrogis are not the only leads being pursued by homicide detectives. Underworld sources said that after Preston’s release from prison, he returned to his previous standover work and was recently involved in an attempt to extort money from people in the highly profitable earth moving industry.
At the time of his death, Preston was believed to have seized equipment from a business owner who he suspected of being involved in the killing of Nabil Maghnie. AJ Maghnie was also shot and wounded in the attack that killed his father.
The Maghnie family owns trucks and has other links to the construction industry. Jacob Elliott, a step-brother to Sabrine and AJ Maghnie, is currently serving a life sentence for the murder of a security guard and patron outside Melbourne’s Love Machine nightclub. On the day he was arrested, he was picked up by police at a major Southbank construction site.
Gavin Preston, pictured outside the Supreme Court in August 2015, was shot dead on Saturday.Credit: Joe Armao
Victorian Transport Association chief executive Peter Anderson said criminal interests had long targeted the transport industry as a way of laundering money. “It is organised, deep-rooted but isolated,” he said.
The owner of a Melbourne earth moving business said crime gangs were buying trucks and using their access to work sites to distribute drugs. “It is very cut-throat out there,” he said.
Underworld figures contacted on Sunday expressed no sympathy for Preston, who was variously suspected of the critical shooting of Toby Mitchell and scheming to kill Mick Gatto.
Gatto politely declined to comment when contacted by this masthead.
Mitchell posted a short video Instagram, hours after Preston’s murder, showing him raising a celebratory drink with unidentified companions.
With Annika Smethurst
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