Slain mother was ‘rarest of Sydney gangsters

Some say the gunning down of women marks a new low in Sydney’s crime wars. Others disagree. “To suggest the rules are out the window – well, there are no rules,” said Michael Kennedy, a lecturer in policing and criminal justice at Western Sydney University.

“The rules change from week to week. She was becoming a risk.”

The crime world source agreed. “I don’t see any differentiation, if you’re a drug lord, if you’re a woman or a man.”

Lametta Fadlalla's home in Panania, which she had rented for several years.

Lametta Fadlalla’s home in Panania, which she had rented for several years.Credit:Nick Moir

Police believe al-Hazouri was accidentally killed during a deliberate hit on Fadlallah; that she was collateral damage.

Her family believes so, too. In an appeal for financial assistance, a woman claiming to be her sister described her as “an innocent party” who was the sole provider for the family in Lebanon, where an economic crisis has led to deep poverty.

“She was a ray of sunshine,” one of her friends told Network Ten. “She was out there doing her job. You want to feel safe in our neighbourhood. How can you feel safe when innocent people are being gunned down for being in the wrong place at the wrong time?”

In the history of Sydney’s gang wars, it’s been the death of an innocent caught in the crossfire that has sparked the greatest community outrage and fear, and has inspired political leaders to invest extra resources into rooting out what led to it.

That’s what happened at the 1984 Milperra massacre, a shoot-out between two bikie gangs in a pub car park when a 14-year-old bystander was killed. And again in 1998, when a 14-year-old boy accidentally went to the wrong address in Telopea Street and was stabbed to death.

Fingerprint dust covers a car in Hendy Avenue, Panania.

Fingerprint dust covers a car in Hendy Avenue, Panania.Credit:Nick Moir

More sophisticated criminal organizations worked harder to ensure accuracy. They often expected until the subject was alone or climbing out of the car, and had called off hits if the situation looked too likely to get messy and generate too much scrutiny.

That’s why the source with knowledge of the Sydney gang wars said the shooting looked ill-disciplined. “As soon as you start hurting innocent people, particularly if it’s a child, [more disciplined gangs know] it brings too much attention,” the source said.

O’Toole on Monday said he had spoken to Police Commissioner Karen Webb and “she is throwing the full resources of the police force into this investigation”. Police had also beefed up specialist squads targeting gangland crime, he said.

This is the fifth suspected gangland hit so far this year. Since 2020, 14 people have died. After three killings in April and May, all believed to be linked to the drug trade, NSW Police launched Taskforce Erebus to investigate and prevent the escalating violence.

Police also say a nine-year-old girl, who was wearing pajamas, was deliberately shot in the hip while helping her mother unload groceries at Connells Point in July when the original target, a 36-year-old man, did not appear. She survived, and two men had been charged.

loading

Back on Hendy Avenue, police were doorknocking the street again on Monday, and fingerprint dust covered a white car near the shooting site. Neighbors stood in their doorways, watching the media throng. “I just heard, pop, pop, pop, pop,” said one, estimating about four or five shots.

Many had chatted to Fadlallah. Few knew her. Her mother, who visited regularly, was more likely to engage in conversations, usually about plants. They had seen her younger son her at the house, and one neighbor said she also seemed to be on friendly terms with her former husbands.

Her second husband, Helal Safi – who was said to have weighed 200kg – died at his home last January. He survived being stabbed 42 times while in jail in 2010. He was arrested again in late 2020, and charged with eight firearm offences.

First husband Shadi Derbas – who a senior police source said had “grown up and grown out” of crime – was an associate of crime boss Danny Karam’s gang, which was involved in the drug trade during the 1990s.

loading

He was jailed for tampering with evidence when he cleaned DNA and fingerprint traces off a getaway car. Police sources said the marital split was amicable, and that during Derbas’ association with criminal figures, his wife did not come to police attention.

The question facing police is the extent of Fadlallah’s own involvement in the crime game.

On Sunday, Homicide Squad Commander Danny Doherty said officers believed she was targeted due to her “past relationships with other known identities”. But others say there may be more to it than going after an enemy’s loved ones.

She was linked to several businesses, including a prestige car hire company which was registered to her own home. “There’s a lot of smoke around businesses like that, particularly when it comes to leasing cars,” said someone with knowledge of organized crime.

With Sally Rawsthorne and Natassia Chrysanthos

The Morning Edition newsletter is our guide to the day’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. sign up here.

Leave a Comment