‘Secret compartment’ clue in gangster murder
HOMICIDE detectives are closer to cracking the case of missing gangster Raphael Joseph after swooping on a property and discovering a "secret compartment" in a vehicle linked to his mysterious death.
NSW Police confirmed authorities have found the car that the missing Iraqi-born man, suspected murdered, was last seen in before his disappearance in 2014.
Mr Joseph, then aged 37, was out with friends at Sydney's The Star on March 20 when he asked to be driven to Auburn McDonald's to "meet someone".
At the McDonald's, he asked friends to wait half an hour, but he was never seen again.
Reportedly a founding member of Assyrian gang DLAST HR, he was last seen getting into the back seat of a silver Holden Commodore about 11.20pm.
He was reported missing on March 22.
The same day that he disappeared, Mr Joseph visited a person who knew murdered Hell's Angel and international drug kingpin Wayne Schneider.
Mr Schneider's body was dumped in a forest grave, in Chon Buri, Thailand, in an area that is known for sex tourism and fugitive crime gangs.
Police are combing a property for Mr Joseph's body in Blaxlands Ridge, in the Blue Mountains, after positively identifying and locating the vehicle Mr Joseph travelled in on the night he disappeared.
It is believed Mr Joseph, a Sydney gangster, was travelling in the car voluntarily with trusted companions and may not have known his fate.
When police searched the Commodore they discovered a secret compartment in the dashboard, where investigators located a "stash box".
It is believed the compartments are linked to illicit drug supply.
Further investigations also led strike force detectives to seize a further two vehicles, which also featured professionally-installed secret compartments, the police said.
"Strike Force Halfbeak detectives established the Commodore is almost as it would have been around the time of Mr Joseph's suspected murder - only the wheels have changed - and are confident the forensic results will assist with inquiries," Homicide Squad Detective Chief Inspector Grant Taylor said
"We believe Mr Joseph trusted the occupants and voluntarily got into the car, and it's likely he was aware of the drug supply activities.
"From the information we've gathered, we believe Mr Joseph was driven from Auburn to another location and murdered."
The Sydney gangster was the prime suspect in the 2002 shooting outside a strip club in Sefton, 23 kilometres west of Sydney, before fleeing Australia for America.
He was arrested six years later in the United States as an illegal immigrant and wrote a letter to then-US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, claiming there was a $100,000 contract on his life. He warned a gang, the Sydney Bronx Boys, "would hunt him down and kill him", the Daily Telegraph reported at the time of his disappearance.
Police investigations believe the large-scale search at a rural property may lead detectives to his final resting place.
"Officers are searching for items relevant to the investigation, and we believe Mr Joseph may have been buried on the property," Insp Taylor said.
"The community have been supportive of our investigation and provided assistance and information, but we know there are people who haven't been as forthcoming.
"We are confident there are people who associated with Mr Joseph and know what happened to him, even if they weren't there that evening.
"While we are following strong lines of inquiry, I would encourage those people to come forward now, as it won't be long before we come for you."