A Melbourne father who hired an undercover police officer to kill a pastor his wife had confided in about domestic violence could walk free from prison within days.
The man was sentenced to five years years behind bars but with nearly two-and-a-half years served already, he’ll be eligible for parole almost immediately.
He was arrested in June 2020 after paying a $5,000 deposit to a man he believed to be a hitman to kill the pastor of a Melbourne church he and his family attended.
“[The man] seems to have believed [the intended victim] had wrongly interceded in his relationship with his former wife,” a Victorian supreme court justice said handing down the sentence on Tuesday.
The man pleaded guilty earlier in December to a charge of incitement to murder.
Prosecutors told the court the man, a father of adult children, had initially sought help from a hitman about his son’s then-wife.
He was distraught at the breakdown of his son’s marriage and had been crying in a cafe. A criminal associate introduced him to the undercover operative, who was posing as a hitman.
The man’s lawyer suggested police led him towards the idea of murder, telling the court he initially asked about having his son’s wife deported, including by planting drugs on her so she would be arrested.
“Can we kick her out of the country? Get rid of her citizenship,” the man was recorded saying.
He only honed in on the idea of murder after the policeman said he couldn’t guarantee that would be successful, as she might win an appeal.
“Then what other options are there?” the man asked.
“If you want her killed,” the operative replied.
The man later decided to target the church pastor his own wife had confided in. He agreed to pay $40,000 to have the man killed.
Prosecutors rejected that he was encouraged by the hitman.
“They didn’t happen to bump into each other and start this conversation in a vacuum,” the prosecutor said.
He met twice with the undercover hitman, in May and June 2020, and pulled together a dossier of information about his intended victim’s movements.
The man was arrested in mid-June. Evidence against him included his fingerprints being found on the dossier.
The intended victim told the court that when he signed up to be a church pastor he did so with a passion for families.
He said whenever issues of domestic violence arose he took the strongest measures, and trained staff to do the same.
“I never thought that would one day lead to a crime being committed against me,” he said.
In handing down the sentence, the judge noted the past two-and-a-half years in custody had been difficult for the man because of the Covid-19 pandemic, restrictions on visitors and the ability to do programs in prison.
The man’s lawyer said he had support of family. He intends to return home to live with his partner if granted parole, and will work for his son who has two businesses.
The judge will hand down his full reasons for sentence at a later date.