Ex-Rebels chapter president claims to have ‘turned over a new leaf’

An ex-Rebels chapter president has tried to “turn over a new leaf” since he drove a gunman from the scene of a gangland murder in 2013.

Robert McCloskey (right) was acquitted of murder. Picture: NSW PoliceSource:News Corp Australia

A former Rebels chapter president has moved to “turn over a new leaf” in the years since he helped a gunman flee the scene of an execution-style shooting, a court has been told.

Robert John Stewart McCloskey was acquitted of Johnny Salafia’s murder at his Supreme Court trial last month when Justice David Davies instead found him guilty of accessory after the fact to murder.

Mr Salafi, himself a former Rebels member, was shot three times in the doorway of his Kings Point home near Ulladulla in June 2013 and was later found bleeding out on his lounge room floor.
Murder victim Johnny Salafia.
Murder victim Johnny Salafia.Source:Supplied

Bullets were found lodged in his buttock and spine, while another passed through his head. A ballistics expert could not say whether five rounds found at the scene came from the same gun.

A sentence hearing for McCloskey was told on Monday the 45-year-old had tried to start afresh after leaving the gang about five years ago.

His barrister Daniel McMahon told the court since leaving the Rebels his client had only committed one offence of affray, resulting from an incident in which he was attacked and seriously injured by three of his former comrades.
McCloskey’s arrest in 2017. Picture: NSW Police
McCloskey’s arrest in 2017. Picture: NSW PoliceSource:News Corp Australia

“He’s now a man who’s changed a lot of things about his life,” Mr McMahon said.
“A person who has in fact moved away from those activities … and made a decision to turn what’s rest of his life into a positive endeavour.”

At trial the court, the court was told McCloskey went to Mr Salafia’s hose on the night of his murder with up to three or four men and fled in a Subaru station wagon.

Crown prosecutor Sean Hughes told the court the ex-bikie’s role in driving the shooter away from the hit was “essential”.
Johnny Salafia who shot at point-blank range.
Johnny Salafia who shot at point-blank range.Source:Supplied

Mr Hughes said McCloskey, who was 38 at the time of the gangland murder and had a history of “significant violence”, could not be viewed in the same light as someone in their 20s or in a “wild stage”.
“One expects a person at that stage of their life to quieten down,” he said.
“The nature of the assistance was a very direct form of assistance, very effective and essential.
“It is a serious and considerable form of assistance.”

Mr McMahon told the court McCloskey did not know Mr Salafia was dead until the shooter informed him while in the getaway car despite hearing gunshots at the scene.

McCloskey appeared in the dock at the Supreme Court on Monday, wearing a black suit with gang tattoos on his neck poking up from beneath a white collared shirt.

His sentence will be handed down at a later date.

Australia - NC.