Gelati bar hit had mafia style but was no Godfather
As a whodunit, the executionstyle murder of Joseph Acquaro had the feel of a Mario Puzo novel — a lawyer to the mob apparently shot down in cold blood for breaking the omerta, the code of silence that protects the mafia and its nefarious activities.
As a murder case now before the Melbourne Magistrates Court, the version of events alleged by police is far more mundane — a dispute between two ageing men over renovations gone wrong at a gelati bar.
Vincenzo Crupi, a 69-yearold man from the Melbourne suburb of Reservoir, was yesterday charged by police with the murder of Giuseppe Alfredo Gaetano Acquaro on March 15, 2016.
Police will allege Mr Crupi approached Acquaro in a darkened laneway, shortly after he had locked up his Brunswick gelataria for the night, and shot him dead at close range.
They will not allege that Mr Crupi has any links to the mob or that he was acting on behalf of anyone else.
They believe this was a personal score, settled in bloody fashion, over money and a suspicious fire at the gelataria.
The death of Acquaro, a long-time confidant of Italianborn businessman Tony Madafferi — a man never charged with a crime but suspected by police of being a senior figure in the Calabrian mafia — outraged police and Melbourne’s legal community.
Less than a year before Acquaro’s death, police had confronted Mr Madafferi in one of his supermarkets and told him they knew a $200,000 contract had been put out on Acquaro’s head. According to a sworn statement tendered in the Victorian Supreme Court by Mr Madafferi’s solicitor, Paolo Tatti, police warned Mr Madafferi that if something happened to Acquaro, “they would know where to start looking”.
In the days after Acquaro was gunned down, wild stories circulated of an assassin being flown in from overseas to carry out what appeared to be a professional hit. Within weeks, however, the police narrowed in on Mr Crupi and his bitter feud with the debonair, 55-year-old lawyer.
Mr Crupi, a labourer by trade, was engaged by Acquaro to help renovate his gelataria. In early 2016, the two men allegedly came to blows after they argued about money. The gelati store was damaged by fire and Acquaro accused Mr Crupi of lighting it.
In an interview with the Herald Sun earlier this year, Mr Crupi denied lighting the fire and any involvement in Acquaro’s death, saying he was home with his wife at the time the lawyer was killed. He said he knew Mr Madafferi but denied acting on his instructions.
Mr Madafferi was interviewed by police and is not a suspect in the case.
Mr Crupi was arraigned at the Melbourne Magistrates Court yesterday on one count of murder. He declined to appear in court and did not make an application for bail.
He will next appear in court at a committal mention hearing.