Sunday August 25 2013
– But for a few seconds, a school in Melbourne’s north would this month be marking the tragic anniversary of students killed in a car bomb.
Whoever wanted John Furlan dead appeared not to care about what collateral damage might be inflicted on passers-by that day at Coburg.
A group of children making their way to school have luck to thank for escaping the bomb’s deadly impact. Only a few metres separated them from Mr Furlan’s Subaru when it exploded.
The vehicle’s bonnet landed on the Lorensen Avenue roadway beside them.
Debris from the Subaru, some flung onto rooftops, was found up to 500m away. The force was enough to destroy a section of asphalt.
A homicide crew led by Detective Jeff Maher – now a senior sergeant at the Arson and Explosives Squad – was called in.
Senior-Sergeant Maher said it was almost unfathomable Mr Furlan was the only fatality.
He said the initial investigation examined the financial affairs, romantic interests and many associates of a colourful man with a large network of relationships.
“It went down many rabbit holes,” he said.
Two violent men believed to be linked to the killing are now dead.
Domenico Italiano was 50 when he died suddenly during a celebratory sex session a day after being released from prison in 2005.
“On the day he was released, he had the services of a prostitute and had a heart attack. He waited all that time to get out and died,” Senior-Sergeant Maher said.
Italiano – who rented a Coburg car yard from Furlan – came from a family who knew a bit about violence.
His grandfather, also Domenico, was reputedly Victoria’s first mafia godfather and his uncle, Michele Scriva, fatally stabbed Giuseppe Versace in 1945 in what was Melbourne’s first mafia hit.
Italiano served jail time for rigging raffles in which prizes, including prestige cars, were “won” by associates and relatives in return for them buying the vehicles at heavily discounted prices.
Mr Furlan’s knowledge of what went on in the raffles was initially regarded as the motive for his death, but that scenario has since been regarded as less likely.
Philip Lander, also known by the surname Matthews, took his own life in the years after the Furlan tragedy. He had a long history of serious criminal offences, including causing an explosion.
Lander and Italiano remain suspects.
In October last year, Senior-Sergeant Maher assigned Detective Senior Constable Tina Kemp to sift through all the material – contained in 10 archive boxes and 50 folders – related to the case.
She has spent hundreds of hours reviewing them since then, poring over thousands of pages and statements, reports and forensic records.
She said they showed Mr Furlan was a normal man with no apparent reason to be a target.
“You could meet someone like John Furlan every day. I just want to know the answer to this,” she said.
After spending the past 10 months immersed in the case, Senior-Constable Kemp wants a result.
“It’s like someone’s given you a book to read and the last few chapters a missing,” she said – Mark Buttler