AS METHODS of murders go, Sydney has seen it all. Guns, knives, rocks, drowning, poisoning, suffocation. But it was the cold-blooded barbarity of the killing of Dominic Li that was so shocking. He was doused with hydrochloric acid on his doorstep by men posing as couriers.
The method of the December 2002 attack was brutal enough. But when it emerged during the trial of three men, two of whom were acquitted yesterday of the murder, that it was a contract attack purely to flush out Mr Li's brother-in-law, Philip Ma, it revealed the chilling underbelly of an organised crime operation.
The man convicted yesterday was the mastermind, Yonky Irvin Tan. Those acquitted were Maua Sua, a self-confessed drug dealer, and another man.
Mr Sua and the other man, friends from Tregear, denied it was them at Mr Li's door pistol whipping him before pouring acid on his head.
The Herald can now reveal the story the jury did not know - the events that started with police surveillance of a massive ecstasy manufacturing operation above a restaurant in Anzac Parade, Kingsford, and that ended nine months later in Mr Li's attack.
The story starts in March 2002, when police became curious about a restaurant run by Tan and his partner, Emil Chang. An associate of Tan, Marcel The, had just been arrested, and was later convicted, over the supply of 25 kilograms of ecstasy.
Tan was rattled. By April he wanted Philip Ma, a professional gambler repeatedly bailed out by his sister, Chau Ma, and her husband, Dominic Li, to launder cash through Star City casino.
Mr Ma would later tell the Supreme Court he lost more than $500,000 and went into hiding. Tan and Chang planned an attack to "make [Li] look like a pig" .
Tan was finally brought to account for the drugs. An associate told the drug trial that at Tan's restaurant, Warung Bandung, he saw people cooking something out of the ordinary. When the associate started to mix the ecstasy potion, a man said: "don't put your hands inside, because it has got hydrochloric acid inside".
Last year Tan was sentenced to 24 years' jail following the seizure of $4.26 million of tablets.
Tan said Chang was his spiritual adviser. Chang wrote to Tan that he had a pendant with magical power. "I will try to find same pendant and give it to you as a present." Though Chang was charged over Mr Li's murder he died bizarrely in a Thai jail by running into a wall. Tan never did receive that good luck amulet.