Reward in racing murder probe
POLICE investigating the murder of South Australian horse racing identity Les Samba in February last year are offering a $1 million reward in an attempt to catch his killer.
News of the reward came as it was revealed on Monday police investigating Mr Samba's death had uncovered an alleged race fixing scandal they believe could help solve the murder.
The Age reported a number of high profile Australian racing identities, including jockey Danny Nikolic - who rode six winners at Coffs Harbour's two-day racing carnival last week, including the Coffs Cup - allegedly conspired to fix the outcome of a race in 2011.
The race was won by a horse called Smoking Aces, ridden by Mr Nikolic.
Mr Nikolic married Mr Samba's daughter in 2006. They had separated well before Mr Samba was killed, and there was no suggestion Mr Nikolic had any involvement in the murder.
Details of the alleged fixed race, which The Age reported yielded participants up to $200,000 in betting returns, emerged during the probe into Mr Samba's murder.
Police believe arrangements were made for two jockeys to employ race tactics designed to reduce the favourite's chances of winning, while aiding Smoking Aces's chance of victory.
Smoking Aces, a six-year-old gelding by Bianconi, is still active and ran as recently as Sunday in Seymour. He has had 20 career starts for four wins and more than $40,000 in prizemoney.
Detective Superintendent Gerard Ryan told The Age he was certain police would solve the murder if they could "solve the issues" around the alleged race fixing.
Mr Samba was gunned down on Beaconsfield Pde, in the Melbourne suburb of Middle Park, on the night of February 27 last year.
The investigation is now being handled by Purana organised crime taskforce. Detectives do not believe it was a random shooting.
They are yet to establish why the South Australian father-of-two was in the area at the time he died and are seeking public assistance.
Investigators have established Mr Samba left the Crown Metropol Hotel, where he had been staying for a couple of days, just after 9pm on the night of shotting.
He was shot 30 minutes later by an unidentified gunman, who was last seen fleeing east along Langridge St.
A spent cartridge shell that was discovered during a search of Beaconsfield Pde in March last year and is believed to be connected to the murder.
Purana Task Force Detective Senior Sergeant Stephen Cooper was hopeful the $1 million reward - payable to anyone who provides information that leads to a murder conviction - would lead to a breakthrough in the murder investigation.
"This investigation has taken detectives interstate, where a number of warrants have been executed. Police have also interviewed a number of people both here in Victoria and interstate but no charges have been laid," he said.
Det Snr Sgt Cooper described the $1 million reward as "the right amount of money" to provide the missing piece of the puzzle.
"It's been nearly 18 months now, and police would like to solve this murder and provide answers to Mr Samba's family, but we need help from the community," he said.
"Someone out there knows who is responsible for Mr Samba's death and we are urging them to call Crime Stoppers immediately."