MELBOURNE – According to police, “an ill-planned plot for revenge” led Greek-Australian Tony Panagiotou, 56, and his sons George, 22, and John, 18, to end up behind bars for the fatal shooting on February 9 of Duane Hutchings, 44, News.com.au reported.
Tony Panagiotou was charged with murder and George and John Panagiotou were charged with aggravated home invasion, assault, and recklessly causing injury, News.com.au reported, adding that another Greek-Australian, Jonathan Atalalis, 24, a family friend, was also arrested and charged with aggravated home invasion, assault, and recklessly causing injury.
The charges were read out on February 11 at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court while Mary Panagiotou, wife of Tony and mother of George and John, wept, and was “inconsolable as prosecutors read out charges against all three after an alleged bid to recover stolen property turned deadly,” News.com.au reported.
According to detectives, Tony Panagiotou allegedly “took a sawn-off shotgun to the property to recover DJ equipment he and his sons believed had been hired from the family business and advertised on [the website] Gumtree,” and Panagiotou “fired a single shot into the back of Mr. Hutchings’ head from less than 1.5 meters away after a group of men burst into the apartment carrying metal poles,” News.com.au reported.
Hutchings, a father of five, “was transported to The Alfred Hospital but died from his injuries before 7 AM on Saturday. Police did not arrest the four men until Sunday night after a judge signed warrants for their arrest,” News.com.au reported.
Magistrate Constantinos Kilias refused bail for the four suspects who will remain in jail until the next hearing scheduled for June.
“Police believe they have the suspected killer, but a witness says there are several men still missing,” News.com.au reported, adding that “a woman who was house-sitting at the apartment in Melbourne’s southeast when the alleged murder took place said ‘six or seven’ men entered before a single shot was fired,” and “she was told to stay where she was and to not touch her phone for five minutes.”
“Kilias refused bail to the youngest of the Panagiotou brothers in part because of concerns for the whereabouts of the murder weapon,” News.com.au reported, and quoted Kilias who said, “I’m troubled by this. I don’t know who’s got that gun.”
In court on February 11, Detective Senior Constable Megan Adams from the Homicide Squad said that Tony Panagiotou had “made extensive admissions” about what happened, News.com.au reported.
“At approximately 5:25 AM on February 9, emergency services were contacted by an eyewitness,” she said, News.com.au reported, adding that “one of the accused sent a text message to a woman at the Oakleigh East address regarding the DJ equipment that was hired from John and George Panagiotou’s new business, Love it Loud.”
“She let him in to view the equipment, he indicated he was happy and after a short time returned with a group of males who commenced an assault with metal poles,” Adams said, adding that “an older male armed with a sawn-off shotgun discharged a single shot,” News.com.au reported.
The police raided properties at Doncaster and Park Orchards and then arrested the men, News.com.au reported, adding that “lawyers for John and George Panagiotou told the court the brothers discovered equipment they believed to belong to them had been advertised on the classified ads website.”
“Defense counsel Christopher Farrington said the pair reported the matter to police before allegedly taking matters into their own hands,” News.com.au reported.
According to the Love it Loud website, the business began in 2018 and “on Facebook in July, George celebrated his new career by posting about the ‘new job’ as ‘founder’ of Love it Loud DJ equipment and party hire,” News.com.au reported.
Hutchings’ brother Liam said that his brother “didn’t deserve to die like that. No one does,” News.com.au reported.
Tony Panagiotou, sons George and John, and Atalalis are scheduled to appear next in court on June 3, News.com.au reported.