Sydney gangster Raphael Joseph once told the then US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, he would be “tortured or killed” if extradited back to Australia to face a murder charge.
Police are now certain he met that fate after sharing a bowl of noodles with friends at The Star casino in Sydney.
One year after his suspected murder, homicide detectives have revealed they believe a trusted associate lured the underworld figure to his death under the guise of a “meeting”.
Police say their investigation is gaining momentum after a team of detectives unravelled Mr Joseph’s connections to a number of criminal networks.
But his family are struggling to cope not knowing how he died or where he is.
“Just give us closure – at least let us know he is dead. I just want my mum to know he’s really dead,” his brother Rafael said.
“At least so he can have a grave, it’s the very least,” added brother Simon.
Mr Joseph, 38, believed to be a founding member of Assyrian gang DLAST HR, was dining with two close friends at Fat Noodle on March 20, 2014, when he received a text on his Blackberry.
Shortly afterwards, he asked one of his friends to drive him in his white Mercedes to a car park near Auburn McDonald’s to “meet someone”.
It was 11.15pm when the pair drove into dimly lit Dartbrook Road and pulled up behind a late model silver Holden Commodore, facing in the direction of Parramatta Road.
Mr Joseph, who has previously gone by the name of Rafi Tooma, and is known as “Huss” or “Hussoney”, told his friend to wait for 30 minutes before getting into the back seat of the Commodore.
His friend waited until 4am but Mr Joseph never came back.
The officer in charge of the case, Detective Sergeant Glenn Morfoot, said Mr Joseph, who was born in Iraq, was a highly sophisticated operator who worked at an international level with many different crime syndicates to import drugs.
“We believe a particular person or persons lured him to that meeting, double crossed him and we also strongly believe that the whole purpose of that meeting was for the sole purpose of kidnapping and murdering him,” Detective Sergeant Morfoot said.
“Obviously somebody who is well known to him and was trusted by him so much that he was prepared to go there and get into this car by himself, which is massive for somebody who operates at his high level – that is a fairly high level of trust,” he said.
He said police believed Mr Joseph had access to large amounts of cash and drugs and whoever killed him did so for financial gain.
“There was definitely a motivation in terms of getting hold of Joseph the person, rather than just a straight hit,” he said.
His brothers admit Mr Joseph led a mysterious life but he rarely spoke to them about what he did.
They cannot understand why anyone would want to harm their “gentle brother” who adored his nieces and nephews.
He had just been on a 10-day trip to Dubai with friends and watched soccer with his brother Simon two days before his disappearance.
“The whole family has collapsed because of this – it is a situation that is unbelievable and we don’t know how to deal with it. It’s been a year and we don’t know what to do,” Rafael said.
“I swear I cry 20 times a day, when I’m driving … and I cry and I think, why does it have to be this way?”
Detectives are not discounting Mr Joseph’s chequered past, but say a number of people have come forward about his activities in the days leading up to his death.
Mr Joseph was previously the subject of a four-year international manhunt after he was wanted in relation to the shooting murder of his alleged rival Bronx Boys gang member, Dimitri Debaz, outside Sydney’s Sefton Playhouse hotel on December 13, 2002.
Mr Joseph fled but was arrested in San Diego in 2006 by immigration officials, who later discovered he was one of NSW’s most wanted criminals.
In the petition to Condoleezza Rice, Mr Joseph’s US lawyer explained why his client had gone into hiding after the Debaz murder.
“A friend of [Mr Joseph’s], Sadi Jajo, was kidnapped a few months later, beaten up, shot twice in each leg, had a caustic liquid poured on his neck, and then dumped on the street,” the petition said.
“His kidnappers were attempting to obtain from him [Mr Joseph’s] location.”
Charges were not pursued after Mr Joseph was brought back to Australia.
Detective Sergeant Morfoot urged anyone who knew about Mr Joseph’s suspected murder to come forward, even if it was just anonymously, to let his family know where his body was.
Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000.