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Mongols bikie Josh Rider murdered Paul Virgona 22 days after claiming love had changed him

A Mongols enforcer promised a judge he would leave behind a life of violent crime 22 days before murdering a fruiterer in a bungled hit on the way to work, a court has heard.

Josh Rider, along with co-accused Aaron Ong, fired a hail of 11 bullets into the van of Paul Virgona, killing the father of two, on Melbourne’s EastLink freeway in November 2019.

Mr Virgona, 46, died from blood loss on the freeway after being hit by seven bullets from a semi-automatic handgun, with evidence pointing to Rider being the shooter.

But just three weeks earlier, Rider, now 32, told a judge presiding over a case in which he brutally bashed a St Kilda man that he had changed after finding love with a glamour model.

Josh Rider, along with co-accused Aaron Ong, fired a hail of 11 bullets into the van of Paul Virgona, killing the father of two, on Melbourne's EastLink freeway in November 2019

Josh Rider, along with co-accused Aaron Ong, fired a hail of 11 bullets into the van of Paul Virgona, killing the father of two, on Melbourne’s EastLink freeway in November 2019 

Three weeks before he murdered Mr Virgona, Mongols enforcer Rider claimed in a court case for a brutal assault that his relationship with Melbourne model Chloe Damiani had given him new direction in life. Pictured, Rider with Ms Damiani

Three weeks before he murdered Mr Virgona, Mongols enforcer Rider claimed in a court case for a brutal assault that his relationship with Melbourne model Chloe Damiani had given him new direction in life. Pictured, Rider with Ms Damiani

Rider claimed his relationship with Melbourne model Chloe Damiani, which commenced in 2017, had given him new direction in life, the Herald-Sun reported.

A letter provided to the County Court over the bashing claimed Rider had experienced ‘wholesale’ personality transformation in the time he was dating Ms Damiani. 

The loved-up pair are depicted in a series of photos on her social media accounts, including one at a party, alongside two cakes in the shape of Mongol biker vests, with the words ‘Happy Birthday Josh, Love the Mongol nation’.

Mongols enforcer Josh Rider commenced a relationship with Melbourne glamour model Chloe Damiani in 2017

Ms Damiani described Rider, who pleaded guilty to the 'reckless murder' of Mr Virgona 'my ride or die'

Ms Damiani described Rider, who pleaded guilty to the ‘reckless murder’ of Mr Virgona, ‘my ride or die’ (Pictured, Ms Damiani with Rider)

The vehicle Paul Virgona was in when he was shot seven times by Ong and Rider

The vehicle Paul Virgona was in when he was shot seven times by Ong and Rider

With the post, Ms Damiani described Rider as ‘my ride or die’.

Daily Mail Australia makes no suggestion of any wrongdoing by Ms Damiani. 

Partly because of Rider’s heartfelt promise he was given a a two-year community correction order, despite having bashed Nizan Bouhamra so badly that he needed a metal plate inserted into his head.

A County Court judge declared Rider, who had been previously convicted of firearms offences, had ‘reasonable prospects of rehabilitation’. 

Within days of the sentencing Rider was planning a brutal murder at the Mongols clubhouse in Port Melbourne, Victoria’s Supreme Court heard.

The court was told Rider and Ong followed Mr Virgona from his home in a stolen Mercedes with cloned number plates.

The hit was a case of mistaken identity – the pair were tasked with shooting a member of the rival Finks gang who lived on the same street as Mr Virgona, a fruiterer who had no ties to any gang.

Rider staunchly denied any involvement in the death of Mr Virgona, but with DNA evidence and CCTV footage placing him at the scene, he changed his plea to guilty on the eve of his trial.

Rider, a Mongols enforcer promised a judge he would leave behind a life of violent crime 22 days before murdering fruiterer Paul Viirgona in a bungled hit

Rider, a Mongols enforcer promised a judge he would leave behind a life of violent crime 22 days before murdering fruiterer Paul Viirgona in a bungled hit

Josh Rider, 29, from Port Melbourne, was charged over the murder of Paul Virgona. He is a known member of the Mongols gang

Rider (right) is pictured in a social media photo

A letter provided to the County Court over the bashing of Nizan Bouhamra claimed Rider had experienced ‘wholesale’ personality change in the time he was dating Ms Damiani

Rider pleaded guilty to ‘reckless murder’ – as opposed to ‘intentional murder’ – in a deal with the prosecution last month, but Ong fought a murder charge.

A condition of the deal was that the prosecution would not seek a life sentence for Rider. 

Ong went to trial and was found guilty of intentional murder on Monday.

A plasterer, Ong’s criminal history including possessing and manufacturing drugs, and offences related to ammunition and proceeds of crime. 

Despite Rider’s plea deal, Supreme Court judge Christopher Beale refused to provide Rider’s legal team with a sentencing indication on the basis of his reckless murder plea.

‘Were I to grant a sentence indication, the court could be seen to be a party to something contrived, even unjust,’ Justice Beale said.

Justice Beale considered statements from Mr Virgona’s family and friends opposing the plea deal.

But Rider’s barrister, Dermott Kann, claimed the plea agreement stands.

‘He will [plead guilty] on the basis … of reckless murder and … of other understandings as to how the matter would be put generally and that there be no suggestion of a life sentence.’

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Read more at DailyMail.co.uk



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