Killer says he only meant to maim lawyer

·3-min read

The man who carried out the brazen daylight execution of a Sydney solicitor says he had never fired a gun before and only meant to shoot him in the foot.

"My finger just touched the trigger and the gun went off three times," Arthur Keleklio testified in the NSW Supreme Court on Friday.

Maintaining the gun malfunctioned, he refused to answer a string of other questions, leading the judge to warn his credibility was at risk of being assessed at "zero".

Keleklio pleaded guilty in April to murdering Ho Ledinh who was shot with a .45 calibre handgun as he sat with friends outside the Happy Cup Cafe at Bankstown City Plaza on January 23, 2018.

In June, a jury found Abraham Sinai guilty of the murder on the basis he was part of an arrangement for the 65-year-old lawyer to be killed.

The Crown contended Sinai's involvement included driving the gunman from the scene.

Both men faced a sentence hearing before Justice Robert Alan Hulme.

Under questioning from his barrister Paul Coady, Keleklio accepted he caused Mr Ledinh's death but said he had not intended to kill him.

"On that day I was there to collect a debt," he said.

"Prior to this day had you ever fired a gun?" Mr Coady asked.

"Never," Keleklio replied.

In the weeks before the shooting, he had communicated with his friend Sinai asking for work.

The first time he heard about recovering a debt was the day before the shooting.

"Who did you hear about the recovery of the debt from?" his barrister asked.

"I would rather not say," he replied.

He understood "we were going to go to some guy's office and collect a debt that was owed".

But on the day, after he was driven around in a van after parking his car, the plan changed from collecting a debt to "shooting the guy in the leg".

He was given a gun and agreed to go along with the changed plan as he was scared.

He thought he couldn't opt out as he was too far in and was drug affected, having not slept for days.

He was shown how to use the gun and intended to shoot the victim once in the foot.

He walked to the cafe and saw the seated victim from behind.

"I walked to the front of the victim and I pointed the gun to his knee area."

He said his finger just touched the trigger and the gun went off before he ran away.

Under questioning from Sinai's barrister Mark Tedeschi QC, Keleklio said Sinai was not in the van before or after the shooting.

Neither did Sinai give him the directions to collect the debt or to shoot the solicitor in the foot or anywhere else, he said.

Prosecutor Sean Hughes suggested Keleklio's evidence was nonsense.

"You went there that day for the sole purpose of killing this man," he said.

"No," the witness replied.

For safety reasons, he said he would not name who had given him his instructions, who gave him the gun, who showed him how to use it or who was in the van.

Despite Sinai's wife previously pleading guilty to being an accessory after the fact to murder and admitting to having been in the van, Keleklio said "I would rather not say" if she was present.

Justice Hulme said Keleklio had chosen to give "selective" evidence that helped himself and Sinai while also choosing to refuse to answer other questions.

"I am minded to find his credibility is at zero" if he wasn't prepared to answer certain questions, including about who was in the van if it wasn't Sinai.

The hearing will continue on December 13.

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