$1 million twist in gangland murder
POLICE have taken the dramatic step of offering a $1 million reward to track down the hitmen behind a crucial killing in Melbourne's gangland war.
The brutal execution of Willie Thompson in Malvern East took place more than 14 years ago when he was sat alone in his car.
At the time of his murder, Thompson was known to police and had a number of connections to a range of gangland figures including Nick Radev and Carl Williams. He was also known to be involved in drug trafficking with particular links to Western Australia.
Victoria Police say the 39-year-old had just left a nearby martial arts gym when he was shot several times by two men who pulled up beside his car.
He then returned to his silver Honda Roadster convertible, which he had parked on Waverley Road.
It's believed a red Ford sedan drove across several lanes of traffic on Waverley Road from a nearby car park and stopped near Thompson's vehicle.
A male passenger then got out of the vehicle and fired a number of shots at Thompson before the male driver of the vehicle exited and also fired a number of shots.
Thompson was fatally injured and died at the scene before police arrived.
In announcing the reward, officer in charge of the Purana Taskforce, Detective Inspector Tracie McDonald, said in many ways Thompson was the "forgotten gangster".
"Thompson's death came during a time when a number of gangland figures were being murdered, however, it never received a lot of public or media attention," she said.
In 2004 police received anonymous information regarding the murder of Thompson and detectives are particularly keen for that person to contact them again.
"We know there are still people out there who know exactly what happened to Willie Thompson and why, and we're appealing for those people to come forward," Det Insp McDonald said.
"Fourteen years is a long time and obviously circumstances can change, so people who did not feel comfortable speaking to police at the time may now be in a position to do so.
"We're confident that this murder is solvable - all we need is the right information from the right people."
The Herald Sun reports that Thompson's killing took place in an era of gangland bloodshed which began with the murder of Alphonse Gangitano at his Templestowe home in 1998.
Police have identified strong suspects in most of the murders. Some of those involved are dead and others are serving jail terms.
Among the unsolved cases are those of career criminal Richard Mladenich, shot dead in a St Kilda motel in 2000, and Mario Condello, gunned down in his Brighton East driveway in 2006.
Anyone with information can contact Crime Stoppers via 1800 333 000 or visit crimestoppersvic.com.au