Three men have been found not guilty of murdering a self-proclaimed "vampire" gigolo who was gunned down in cold blood in front of his pregnant girlfriend and her father more than a decade ago.
A Supreme Court jury had been deliberating for almost three days before finding Mark Perry, 46, Evangelos Goussis, 46, and Warren Shea, 42, not guilty on Tuesday of murdering Shane Chartres-Abbott in the Melbourne suburb of Reservoir on June 4, 2003.
Goussis is currently serving a life sentence with a 30-year non-parole period for the gangland killings of Lewis Moran and Lewis Caine in 2004.
In his closing address to the jury, Crown prosecutor Andrew Tinney said the people involved in the murder of Chartres-Abbott were not heroes doing society a favour.
He said Chartres-Abbott had been a human being who deserved to be protected like anyone else in the community.
''He was gunned down in broad daylight at the front of his house, in front of his pregnant girlfriend and her father in a suburban street in our city, not in some seedy or dangerous part of the world, but in Melbourne,'' the prosecutor said.
The murder was ''a gutless, brutal, disgraceful crime'' that was no less deserving of condemnation than any other brutal vicious murder, he said.
''And the people who carried out this crime ... were not heroes, they were not doing society a favour. They were striking a shameful blow, members of the jury, at the very heart of our system. The system of justice that is so important to us, that is there to protect us all.''
The Crown case against the three men during the two-month trial was that the shooting of Chartres-Abbott, 28, had been an act of revenge.
Chartres-Abbott was standing trial in the County Court at the time for the rape and mutilation of Perry's ex-girlfriend at a hotel in Prahran in July 2002.
The woman was found naked, bloodied and unconscious in the hotel room. There was evidence she had been strangled and beaten. Part of her tongue was ripped out and bite marks and bruises were on her body.
A male escort who had both male and female clients, Chartres-Abbott had previously told the woman he was a 200-year-old vampire who no longer drank blood because he was living in the real world.
Tinney argued Goussis, Perry and Shea were guilty of murder because they had been involved in a joint criminal enterprise to kill Chartres-Abbott.
He claimed Perry contacted his friend Shea who contacted the killer to take care of Chartres-Abbott.
The contracted gunman, whose identity remains surprressed by the court, told the jury he later went to a pub where he was given Chartres-Abbott's address by a serving detective, Peter Lalor, when in the company of a former detective, David Waters. The gunman said he was with Goussis when he shot Chartres-Abbott with a .357 magnum revolver.
The crime remained unsolved for several years until the killer told police in 2006 about his involvement and implicated the three accused.
Perry disappeared in September 2007 before being arrested in Perth in July, 2013.
The three men's defence was that the killer could not be believed, was an inveterate liar and they were not involved in any way in the murder.
Shea's attorney, Michael O'Connell, told the jury it would be ''an absolute travesty'' to rely on the killer's word to convict his client of murder.
''Such a conviction would be, in our submission, manifestly unsafe,'' he said.
''On one hand the murder is an outrageous, cold-blooded killing, but on the other hand you are being invited to rely, to safely rely, on the word of the same outrageous cold-blooded killer to convict these men of murder.
''So he does these monstrous things but it is safe to rely on him. That's what is being put to you. If that isn't a contradiction, at the very least you might think those concepts don't sit particularly comfortably together.''
O'Connell said the Crown conceded the killer was a career criminal who had shown over his lifetime a willingness to lie to suit his own purposes.
''However the Crown might try and confess and avoid [the killer's] sins, the reality is that those sins infect this case.
''It infects it all and that infection is terminal. It would be dangerously unsafe to rely on what [the killer] says. You can't trust him and you can't be sure he's telling the truth.''
The jury agreed.
- The Age