In the underworld, losing the numbers game can be fatal

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Major gangsters are like politicians. They need more friends than enemies if they are to stay in power.

But while politicians who get the balance wrong are voted out with a superannuation package, the gangsters tend to lose in a more permanent ballot. As was the case with Gavin “Capable” Preston, who was shot dead in Keilor East on Saturday while enjoying a coffee with one of his few remaining mates, also wounded in the attack.

Police at the scene in Keilor East where Gavin Preston was shot.Credit: Joe Armao

Years earlier, Preston had been stabbed 20 times in prison and his mate Abbas “AJ” Maghnie had been shot on the outside, which proved two things: crime is a violent business and neither of these men seemed to learn from their mistakes.

Preston had the first thing you need to become a big player in the underworld: an excellent nickname, Capable – because he was capable of anything.

In the crime world, as in big business, branding can help you dominate your chosen market. In the corporate world you have The Big Australian, The Flying Kangaroo and CommBank. In the underworld there is Chopper, The Octopus and Machine Gun.

The trouble with Capable was he was capable of making many enemies, which means homicide investigators may get RSI flicking through the file of well-known names who hated his guts.

Christopher Dean “Badness” Binse.Credit: Fairfax

Long-term inmate, armed robber and escape artist Christopher Dean “Badness” Binse was plotting his murder the last time the two were outside prison at the same time.

Fearsome prison enforcer Matthew “The General” Johnson – leader of the Prisoners of War gang and the killer of drug boss Carl Williams – was not a fan, and the leader of the Notorious crime syndicate, George Marrogi, who runs the gang from inside prison, will not be shedding tears. He is more than capable of ordering a hit on Capable from inside jail.

Marrogi runs a multimillion-dollar syndicate from inside jail, yet will never get out to spend any of it, which seems a little counterintuitive.

On the outside, Preston’s enemies are a who’s who of crime that would include the friends and relatives of those he has shot, the shady businesses he has tried to stand over and the crooks who didn’t want to see him move in on their turf.

Carl Williams and Matthew Johnson.Credit: Fairfax Media

Preston was released from prison in April and even if he had the slightest wish to turn over a new leaf, his reputation as dangerously unpredictable would make him a threat – one that had to be extinguished.

So, the first question is: what took them so long?

Preston became a dead man walking not because he was violent, but because he was running out of violent friends. Those who killed him believe he no longer had the power base that would launch a counterattack.

Time will tell if they are right.

The trouble with branding in the underworld is that you get known. And then you get dead.

Preston joins a long line that includes Christopher “Rentakill” Flannery, Freddie “The Frog” Harrison, Alphonse “The Black Prince” Gangitano, Nik “The Bulgarian” Radev and Carl “The Premier” Williams who were ambushed when they ran out for friends.

Do those with the colourful nicknames ever wonder why no one has heard of a retirement village for hitmen?

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