This is a homicide investigation where detectives know what happened and who was involved, but for the past 12 years have lacked the final element to lay charges, which is why they are now offering a $1million reward to crack the case.
The Age’s John Silvester reports.
It was January 22, 2006, when Sebastiano ‘‘Sam’’ Formica, 38, the father of two young children, involved himself in an early-morning pub brawl in central Shepparton that left him with fatal stab wounds.
The local forklift driver, his two brothers and a couple of mates had kicked on to a pub after drinks at a house before deciding on nightcaps at Fontana Bar in Wyndham St.
According to police, they weren’t looking for trouble although there was bad blood in town.
Three weeks earlier one of Formica’s brothers was bashed in the bar and the assault was an active police investigation. Two suspects had been interviewed and released pending further inquiries.
The victim, the alleged offenders and others in the group were all members of a Tatura sporting club.
Just after 1am on January 22, members of the group involved in the earlier assault were lining up to enter Fontana Bar when they were spotted by the Formica group. It was the flashpoint.
Homicide investigators found it ‘‘kicked off’’ straight away and then spilled up the street.
One of the suspects and another man believed to have been involved in the initial assault broke free and ran north along Wyndham St with Formica chasing them.
Multiple witnesses told police when one of the men broke away Formica ‘‘brushed past’’ the second and then walked back to a hotdog stand in the main street.
He lifted his shirt and said, ‘‘I’ve been stabbed,’’ before collapsing.
He died where he fell from massive blood loss.
Police took statements from 93 people who were in the vicinity.
Medical evidence was that he was unlikely to have survived more than a minute after he was stabbed and CCTV showed the incident from the fight, the chase, stabbing and death took two minutes. An autopsy showed he was stabbed with a 16cm long, 3cm wide non-serrated knife.
Cold-case detectives reopened the file in January and now believe they are close to laying charges.
The head of the unit, Detective Senior Sergeant Peter Trichias, said: ‘‘We are very close to solving this case, but we want those who know the truth to come forward.’’
He said the killer would have confided to his friends on the night what had happened and it was possible an associate may have helped dispose of the murder weapon.
‘‘We have hit so many dead ends looking for justice,’’ Sam Formica’s brother Carmelo said.
‘‘There is no closure.
‘‘He (the killer) would have told someone.
‘‘I have tried to get answers, but no-one would talk.’’
The head of the Homicide Squad, Detective Inspector Tim Day, said it was believed the announcement of the reward would encourage the right person or people to come forward.
‘‘We are appealing directly to those people to help us solve this murder,’’ he said.
‘‘For 12 years someone has known who has done this and it’s time that person tells us the truth.’’
Anyone with information about the murder of Sebastiano Formica should phone Crime Stoppers on 1800333000 or submit a confidential crime report at www.crimestoppers.com.au