Notorious underworld figure Bilal Hamze was “shot down in a hail of bullets” in Sydney’s central business district, in what police say is a major escalation in violence in the city.
Multiple assailants opened fire on the 34-year-old on Thursday night in Bridge Street, near Circular Quay, police say.
He is the cousin of Brothers for Life figurehead and Goulburn Supermax inmate Bassam Hamzy.
Detectives believe it could be part of an ongoing conflict between rival families and organised crime networks or the result of arrests last week under Operation Ironside – an international sting on organised crime.
NSW Police Homicide Squad Commander Detective Superintendent Danny Doherty said “once you disrupt organised crime networks, there is always going to be some irritation, and this may have been a result of that.”
It was fortunate members of the public weren’t injured during the “brutal execution-style murder”, he told reporters on Friday.
“We’re lucky that we haven’t got more casualties. We are lucky that there is no one else injured.
“It is a major escalation ... There were still people leaving pubs, restaurants and other places and motels.”
Police are poring over the area and also examining a burnt-out black Audi found at Northwood on Sydney’s lower north shore that has been linked to the shooting.
Criminal Groups Squad Commander Detective Superintendent Robert Critchlow said there were concerns about revenge attacks.
“We’ll be opening doors, we’ll be kicking down doors, we’ll be tipping people over,” he said.
“It will not be business as usual for the criminal fraternity in Sydney after today.”
Police confirmed there was a contract out on Hamze’s life.
“He’s been warned that he was at risk ... He sought to live his life the way he wanted to, and he made some choices,” Det Supt Critchlow said.
Detectives are investigating how the assailants knew about Hamze’s whereabouts.
Hamze was treated at the scene for multiple gunshot wounds after the attack before 10.30pm.
He was taken to St Vincent’s Hospital where he died a short time later.
In March 2013, Hamze’s mother, Maha Hamze, was shot in the legs through the door of her home in Auburn in western Sydney. She survived.
The shooting was sparked by a debt recovery fee feud between her son and another man.
Her home was shot up again in October last year.
On the same day, Hamze’s cousin Mejid Hamzy was shot dead at his Condell Park home.
Detectives from the NSW Police State Crime Command’s Homicide Squad have established Strike Force Englorie to investigate the death.