Friday, 26 September 2008

Siblings jailed for plot to kill father

Maria Stallone and Dominic Natale couldn't stand the thought of their violent father selling two family properties and disinheriting the children he denied fathering.

So they hatched a plan to knock him off.

They initially plotted to stab Dominico Natale, now 83, with a syringe while he was out walking, hoping to pass his death off as a heart attack.

But a hitman hired by Stallone, 44, and Natale, 48, told them it wouldn't work and suggested a hit-and-run instead in return for a payment of $14,000.

The only hitch was the hitman wasn't a hitman at all.

He was an undercover police officer who had been dutifully recording telephone conversations between Stallone and Natale as they plotted to kill their father in September 2006.

The pair was visibly distraught on Thursday as Victorian Supreme Court Justice Betty King sentenced each of them to nine years in jail. Both had pleaded guilty to one count of incitement to murder.

Stallone sat with her head bowed, hiding behind her brown wavy hair, throughout most of Thursday's hearing, occasionally wiping away tears.

Natale also hung his head, and began to weep when Justice King delivered the sentence and his family, sitting opposite, cried out in dismay.

A violent and aggressive man, Dominico Natale Snr regularly beat his wife and four children in the family's home in Melbourne's North Fitzroy.

He was jealous of his wife and disputed he was the children's father.

When his wife passed away in 2005 from a brain tumour, Dominico Natale Snr planned to sell the family's North Fitzroy home and another property in Preston.

He was entitled to the proceeds of the Preston house, but his wife's share of the North Fitzroy home would be split between the four children.

Stallone and Natale feared their father would disinherit his children and give the money instead to his niece and other daughter, whom he lived with, or to the Jehovah's Witnesses.

Stallone, who was a teacher at the time, met with the undercover policeman she believed was a hitman.

When told she could back out at any time, she replied she wanted to go through with the murder and handed over a $3,000 deposit.

On September 20, the day of the planned murder and her ultimate arrest, Stallone had the $11,000 balance ready.

Justice King agreed the siblings' father was a "difficult, irascible man who had no great love for his children or wife," but noted this was not their motivation for murdering their father.

Even if this had been the motivation, that would not have justified any plan to murder him, Justice King said.

"This was not a crime committed in the heat of passion or extremis, but calculated, planned and pursued over a period of some weeks," she said.

"Your father's behaviour towards you as his children was reprehensible, your behaviour to your father as his children was morally repugnant and indefensible."

Justice King said the pair had earned a three-year discount from their sentences by pleading guilty.

Stallone, of Reservoir, and Natale, of Mildura, will be eligible for parole in six years.

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