HITMAN Stephen Asling has been sentenced to life in prison for murdering underworld figure Graham "The Munster" Kinniburgh.
Carl Williams offered the former Bendigo man, 56, and another man, Terrence Blewitt - who has since died - $150,000 to kill Mr Kinniburgh for his association with the Moran family, enemies of the Williams family during the gangland war. The pair waited for Mr Kinniburgh outside his Kew home on December 13, 2003 and ambushed him as he arrived, with one or both gunning him down soon after he got out of his car.
Mr Kinniburgh ran up the street and fired a shot from his own gun, but the bullet went astray. The 62-year-old was shot a number of times and died almost instantly from a wound to the back of his head about 15 metres from his car.
Justice Stephen Kaye sentenced Asling on Friday to life imprisonment – the maximum penalty for murder - ordering him to serve 27 years in prison before he could apply for parole. He described the murder, which was planned over about four months as "brutal, callous and utterly cowardly".
Justice Kaye said his sentence had to be severe enough to "to make it plain that any person who undertakes to kill another for reward can expect no mercy from the courts" and to reflect the community's "condemnation of the manner in which you flagrantly flouted our society's most basic human values," he said.
The pair, he said, had killed Mr Kinniburgh for a reward, "the most base of human motives."
Asling was on parole for a string of armed robberies at the time of the murder. Prosecutors relied on three key witnesses, all criminals, who implicated Asling in Kinniburgh's death. Asling's DNA was not found at the murder scene.
The judge said Mr Kinniburgh was a defenceless victim who was killed in "a cold-blooded and heartless manner" outside his home, where his wife Sybil and son were at the time.
"By your heinous crime, you have taken his life from him, and deprived him of the opportunity of enjoying his family in his later years."
Williams initially arranged for Asling to kill Lewis Moran but later told the pair to kill Mr Kinniburgh if they could not kill Moran, the court heard. He gave Asling some cash, drugs and guns as a down-payment for the murder, and paid him more money afterwards.
"The concept of contract killing is utterly abhorrent to the fundamental values of a civilised and decent society," Justice Kaye said.
Life in prison was the "only appropriate sentence" the judge said he could impose, given Asling's violent criminal history, and that his lawyers were instructed not to raise anything about his personal circumstances which could mitigate his crime.
A jury last month found Asling guilty of murder after three days of deliberation.