Grooming a killer: Puppetmaster and the young assassin
He was a destitute young man who was seduced and brainwashed by crime lord Bassam Hamzy into carrying out the contract killing of a sleeping teenager.
They met in jail, according to documents tendered in the NSW Supreme Court.
Hamzy pretended to care about the 25-year-old, sharing his wisdom on legal matters and religion, playing the role of the elder inmate who cared about the wayward young guy whose identity has been suppressed.
This was stage one of Hamzy's grooming process. The court documents said Hamzy, a convicted murderer who has been in jail since he was 18, then personally recruited the young man to join his crime gang, the notorious Brothers For Life.
An expert puppetmaster, Hamzy soon manipulated his target to gain control over him.
When the young man was released from prison and looking for shelter and direction, Hamzy's lieutenants put a roof over his head.
They also showered him with cash and gifts, like a designer Tag Heuer watch, Nike shoes and thousands of dollars worth of clothes.
Hamzy even ordered him to attend a high-level dinner meeting where he sat at a restaurant table with several western Sydney crime figures, fearfully wondering what he could talk to them about.
The pay off for Hamzy came on April 14, 2017. The young man was used as a foot soldier to commit one of Australia's most shocking murders.
In a misguided sense of loyalty and duty, the 25-year-old stormed a Glenfield home in Sydney's southwest and assassinated sleeping 15-year-old Brayden Dillon.
The young killer didn't know it, but he was disposable as well.
Once his job was done, it is alleged Hamzy's cohorts considered murdering him too.
But police investigating the murder got to the groomed shooter before anyone else could.
The young man pleaded guilty to the murder and agreed to give evidence against his co-accused.
While he escaped being killed, a large chunk of his life was taken away in the NSW Supreme court on Friday when Justice Ian Harrison sentenced him to a maximum sentence of 40 years jail with at least 30 years behind bars.
The now 29-year-old, who can't be legally identified, was perfect fodder for Hamzy.
The court heard he was born and bred in regional NSW but never had a father. His mother was an alcoholic and at age five he was sent to live with his strict grandmother in western Sydney.
By 15 he had started using drugs and since the age of 18 had spent only months rather than years out of jail.
It was during a stint at Silverwater prison that he met Hamzy, who recruited vulnerable men, "typically young Aboriginal men with substance addictions", to commit crime, court documents state.
Despite being in jail, Hamzy demanded loyalty and obedience from members of his gang, Brothers For Life.
His rules were: "Never show fear, hit to hurt, aggression and attack agile, don't let anyone disrespect you and look them in the eye."
At the behest of Hamzy, the young man joined BFL in 2012, after converting to Islam in prison, and became his personal debt collector.
MOTIVE TO MURDER
Police allege the murder of Brayden Dillon was a revenge hit, after a person close to Brayden was involved in a fatal brawl at Panania in 2016.
During the brawl that person fatally stabbed 18-year-old Adam Abu-Mahmoud.
He was charged but found not guilty of Abu-Mahmoud's murder on the basis of self defence.
Adam Abu-Mahmoud's uncle, Abdul Abu-Mahmoud, 35, is currently before the NSW Supreme Court in a judge alone trial charged with murder for allegedly planning the killing of Brayden Dillon as a revenge hit for his nephew's death. Abdul Abu-Mahmoud has pleaded not guilty.
In opening submissions in the NSW Supreme Court, the Crown Prosecutor told the court Abdul Abu-Mahmoud stood up and yelled threats to his nephew's accused killer - who was in protective custody on remand - while he was appearing at Burwood Local Court in December 2016.
"Get out of protection, get into the main," Abdul Abu-Mahmoud is alleged to have said, "If you're a man, get into the main. F**king dog."
PLANNING THE MURDER
It is the prosecution's case that members of the Brothers For Life Illawarra chapter, which Hamzy established from Supermax prison in 2017, were approached to get revenge.
The prosecution told the court that at a meeting with Abdul Abu-Mahmoud in mid-2016, Brothers For Life member Kane Galvin and a man known only as "Witness A" were provided with an address in Panania, a .357 revolver and $10,000.
The address was meant to be the home of another man, who was also charged over the death of Abdul Abu-Mahmoud's nephew.
But the drive-by mission, which was attempted on August 18, 2016, was a failure. Witness A drove to Panania, accidentally discharged the gun as he pulled it from his pants and ran off.
He returned the next night and fired six shots into the wrong house, according to evidence tendered in court.
The prosecution said that Abdul Abu-Mahmoud then met with another man - Witness F - in September or October 2016 and asked him to kill Brayden Dillon for $70,000.
After some Facebook research, Witness F figured out Brayden was only a teenager.
The prosecution said he later told Abu-Mahmoud that he wanted "nothing to do with killing him because he was just a kid".
On March 26, 2017, the young man who would become an assassin walked out of Cessnock Correctional Centre and found Abdul Abu-Mahmoud waiting to pick him up.
It is alleged Abdul Abu-Mahmoud put a roof over the young man's head in Bankstown, bought him clothes, a phone and funded a lifestyle - with additional financial help from Hamzy - he'd never had before.
Within weeks, it is alleged Abu-Mahmoud asked the young man to murder Brayden.
He'd be given $200,000, a pistol and an address - all he had to do was turn up.
In the two days leading up to Brayden's murder, the young man had two phone calls from Hamzy, who has not been charged in relation to the teen's murder.
At 6am on April 14, 2017, the young man kicked through the front door of Brayden's family home. He pointed a pistol at Brayden's mother, told her to get back in her room, where she took shelter with her husband and young children.
The young man went into Brayden's bedroom, where he was still asleep in his underwear, and fired a single shot into his head.
Stoically staring down the young assassin in court this month, Brayden's mother recounted the harrowing moments she went into her teenage son's room and cradled his bloodied head.
"You pointed that gun at me; you should've just shot me," she told the shooter at his sentencing hearing.
As Brayden's family mourned, his killer blew part of the $20,000 he received for the hit on two motorbikes for his children and a large bag of cocaine.
In July, 2017, Strike Force Wongala detectives charged him with murder. A week later, Abdul Abu-Mahmoud left Australia for the Middle East.
In the months that followed police allege a lawyer, who can't be identified, sourced information about the case through the young assassin's then-lawyer.
The deal was to offer the young man $20,000 to sign a fake affidavit absolving certain parties of any involvement in the murder, and to cover his bail application.
Discussions were then had between Brothers For Life associates to murder the young man after he signed the falsified affidavit, according to court documents.
A spanner was thrown in the works when the young man's lawyer withdrew from the case for "ethical reasons" in 2018.
However the court facts state Brothers For Life figure Mohammed "Little Crazy" Hamzy, who is in jail for manslaughter, engaged lawyer Chris Eliopoulos to "ensure (the young shooter) executed the affidavit".
Mr Eliopoulos later told police he was meant to be paid $5000 for this.
On April 4, 2018, Mr Eliopoulos went to Cessnock Jail and had the young man sign the falsified legal declaration.
Surveillance police tailed him to Bondi Beach, where Mr Eliopoulos was meeting another man holding a folder titled "affidavit of (the young killer)".
Mr Eliopoulos has not been charged with any offence and there is no suggestion he knew at the time that the affidavit was false.
Another Sydney solicitor allegedly involved in the affidavit saga has been charged with accessory after the fact to murder and is awaiting trial.
In evidence given to an emotionally-charged courtroom this month, the young man groomed to kill who became an assassin reflected on the supposed gang brotherhood: "They just manipulate, use ya, get what they need and that's it."
Originally published as Grooming a killer: Puppetmaster and the young assassin