Chilling phone call in 42-year-old murder

Chilling phone call in 42-year-old murder

Police in NSW investigating a four-decade-old unsolved political assassination have released an audio recording of a group claiming responsibility — and are asking for the public’s help in deciphering the woman’s voice.

On December 17, 1980, Turkish Consul-General Sarik Ariyak, 50, and his bodyguard Engin Sever, 28, were gunned down outside a home on Portland Street in Sydney’s Dover Heights.

As they were leaving the residence at about 9.45am in separate vehicles, they were approached by two unknown men who fired multiple shots at close range before fleeing on a motorcycle.

Mr Ariyak died at the scene, and Mr Sever died a short time later at St Vincent’s Hospital. The diplomat’s wife and eight-year-old daughter both witnessed the attack.

Shortly afterwards, a group called the Justice Commandos of the Armenian Genocide claimed responsibility in a series of phone calls to media outlets.

Despite extensive investigations, no one has ever been charged.

In 2019, the NSW Joint Counter Terrorism Team, which comprises the NSW Police, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the NSW Crime Commission, established Strike Force Esslemont to reinvestigate the murders.

On Wednesday, the strike force release an audio recording of one of the phone calls made to a media outlet claiming responsibility for the attack.

In the recording, a female voice claims responsibility for the assassinations on behalf of the Justice Commandos of the Armenian Genocide, stating the attacks were in “retaliation for the injustice done to the Armenians by Turkey in 1915”.

Police are asking the public’s assistance in deciphering the inaudible words twice spoken after “the authors of” in case they are of significance to the investigation.

In the recording, the journalist asks the woman to repeat the message but both times it comes across as difficult to make out.

“Right, could you just read that out again so I’ve got it, would that be possible?” he says.

Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics Commander, Assistant Commissioner Mark Walton, urged the community to listen to the recording intently.

“Identifying the female through her voice – or recognising any indecipherable words in the audio – will greatly assist us with this investigation,” he said in a statement.

“Police have strong reason to believe that there are members of the public who are aware of who this person is, and we urge them to come forward. While we continue this investigation, we suspect there are people who know exactly what happened that day but have not yet been willing to speak with authorities.

“We’d like to hear from these people as soon as possible, as well as anyone whose memory may be refreshed by the audio we’ve released – no matter how insignificant the information may seem, it could be invaluable to the investigation.

“I’d also like to remind the community that the $1 million reward, which was announced in 2019, is still available to those who provide information in relation to the case.”

Up to $1 million can be paid for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the men’s murders.

The strike force has previously released computer-generated images of the suspects, based on witness descriptions. In 2020, investigators said information received since the announcement had resulted in a number of items of interest being retrieved from the bottom of Sydney Harbour.

Armenian terror groups conducted a series of attacks against Turkish diplomats and interests around the world in the 1970s and 1980s.

In November 1986, a car bomb prematurely exploded in the basement of the Turkish consulate in Melbourne, killing Sydney man Hagop Levonian, subsequently identified as one of the bombers.

His accomplice Levon Demirian, an Armenian-Australian restaurateur from Epping in Sydney, was jailed for 25 years for murder but that conviction was quashed on appeal and he ended up serving 10 years for conspiracy.

Anyone with information that may assist Strike Force Esslemont investigators is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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