Craigieburn drive-by shooting linked to Melbourne’s tobacco war

A man gunned down in a brazen drive-by shooting could have links to suspects responsible for firebombing several tobacco stores in Melbourne.

One man, 27, was shot dead in a luxury Mercedes SUV riddled with bullets, while another man, 28, was seriously injured at Craigieburn Central shopping centre at around 3pm on Saturday.

Four balaclava-clad gunmen remain on the run after targeting the pair as they sat in the car on Windrock Avenue.

The man killed is reportedly linked to the Comanchero outlaw motorcycle gang, the Herald Sun reported.

Police are investigating if a battle for control of Melbourne’s lucrative tobacco trade is linked to the city’s latest gangland execution on Saturday afternoon. A scene from the aftermath of the shooting is pictured

The shooting was the third brazen public killing in Melbourne in the past two months, all of which are suspected to be linked to the city’s crime gangs.

The 27-year-old victim is understood to have links to a well-known triggerman who is aligned with the Comancheros.

The triggerman has reportedly been at war with another organised crime syndicate with the conflict resulting in the fire-bombings of businesses such as tobacco shops. 

Footage from Saturday’s shooting showed a white Mercedes GLC250 SUV peppered with multiple bullet holes.

The passenger window was blasted by nine gun shots, with at least another three apparent bullet marks denting the front windscreen.

A further four bullets were fired through the rear window, with a fifth shot into the luxury car’s tailgate.

Emergency workers raced to the mall and fought to save one man but he died at the scene while the other man was taken to hospital in a serious condition.

One victim could be seen being treated on the ground by the driver’s door of the vehicle, partially hidden by screens put up by police as paramedics worked on him.

The attack shocked witnesses, who ducked for safety, and quickly drew distraught relatives of the victims to the scene. 

One distressed man had to be held back from trying to reach the scene as horrified bystanders looked on, while an older man broke down in tears and wailed in grief. 

The alleged shooters approached the car on-foot before fleeing in a luxury SUV, with police investigating if a black Range Rover Sport found burnt out in Broad St, Westmeadows is linked to the attack.

A second torched car was found at around 5.30pm down an embankment near Merri Creek at Reservoir.

One man was shot dead in a luxury SUV riddled with bullets (pictured), while another was seriously injured at Craigieburn Central shopping centre at around 3pm on Saturday

One man was shot dead in a luxury SUV riddled with bullets (pictured), while another was seriously injured at Craigieburn Central shopping centre at around 3pm on Saturday

Veronica Estimova, who works at Elevate 24:7 Fitness just metres from where the shooting happened, said she heard ‘loud bangs’.

‘It was quite scary, we didn’t know what was going on,’ Ms Estimova said.

‘A group of people ran into the gym and said there had been a drive-by shooting, they said they saw a young man lying on the ground …

‘It’s very concerning, you don’t expect something like this to happen in broad daylight.’

Victoria Police are understood to be investigating if the latest murder is connected to a drive-by shooting at Excelsior Heights in Craigieburn on September 14.

A couple in their 50s, who were reportedly not the intended targets, were asleep inside the home at the time and were not injured. 

Some 15 bullets were fired through the front window of the property.

That shooting followed just days after the gangland execution of bikie boss Gavin ‘Capable’ Preston who was riddled with bullets while having breakfast with the son of his former mate Nabil ‘Mad Lebo’ Maghnie in Keilor, in Melbourne’s north-west.

Abbas Maghnie Jr, known as AJ, took a bullet in the stomach as he ran from Preston’s executioner at a café on September 8, but managed to survive.

The masked assassin and his getaway driver had reportedly parked opposite the site of the attack for three hours before the deadly ambush.

Preston, 50, was hit with 10 bullets in the daylight shooting at Sweet Lulus café.

A chilling 40-second clip of the killing showed a hooded man in black sprinting towards the cafe’s outdoor seating area and firing in Preston’s direction.

Terrified diners threw themselves to the ground and covered their faces as the notorious criminal slumped in his seat and fell to the ground beside his table.

As the gunman ran away, two women checked each other for injuries before grabbing their handbags and escaping the café.

Two men then cautiously approached Preston, who was motionless beside the table where just seconds earlier he had been eating breakfast.

Preston’s distraught fiancé Lauran Howe had to be restrained by officers after she arrived at the café in the aftermath of the shooting.

The gunman is seen approaching the table

Gavin 'Capable' Presto then falls to the ground

The 40-second clip shows a man in all-black sprints towards the cafe’s outdoor seating area and fires a flurry of bullets in Preston’s direction

‘He’s my husband,’ she could be heard screaming as she tried to get through police tape cordoning off the scene to the public.

Ms Howe eventually had to be led away by officers with another man, also known to Preston, also pinned to the ground by officers.

It’s believed the alleged shooters fled the scene in a black Audi Q5. Two burnt-out cars were found after the shooting, including one just 500m from the scene.

The luxury SUV was found abandoned in nearby Blair Court before the gunmen fled in a second car.

Underworld figure Gavin 'Capable' Preston was shot dead at Sweet Lulus cafe at Keilor Village in Melbourne's north-west in September

Underworld figure Gavin ‘Capable’ Preston was shot dead at Sweet Lulus cafe at Keilor Village in Melbourne’s north-west in September