Almost five years since Christopher Estephan became embroiled in the high-profile murder of Sydney debt collector Michael McGurk, the 24-year-old has become the fourth man to be sentenced over the crime.
Estephan showed little emotion as he was sentenced to a minimum of five years at the Supreme Court on Wednesday for being an accessory after the fact and for firearms offences.
His mother, who has supported him throughout the protracted legal proceedings, covered her mouth with her hands.
Estephan was just a “baby-faced” 19-year-old when he drove to Mr McGurk’s Cremorne home on Sydney’s north shore on September 3, 2009 with Haissam Safetli, now 49.
Mr McGurk was shot that evening at close range while getting the shopping out of his car.
Safetli and Estephan then sped away.
The crown initially alleged that both men were involved in the murder plot and that Estephan had known about the modified rifle sitting in the getaway ute.
But following a committal hearing last year, the murder charge against Estephan was discharged due to lack of evidence.
He pleaded guilty in 2010 to being an accessory after the fact and to unlawfully possessing two firearms.
In sentencing him, Justice Geoffrey Bellew said while it could not be found Estephan knew about the murder before the fatal shot, he actively helped conceal it.
He drove Safetli from the scene and he watched as the older man dismantled the rifle and threw parts of it into Sydney Harbour.
He then witnessed the murderer burn his clothes as well as the stolen number plates that Estephan had earlier acquired for the getaway ute.
After the murder, Estephan showed his then-girlfriend an article about the killing, and stated: “I was involved with that”.
He also told another friend: “I have done something bad”.
But apart from these admissions, Estephan remained quiet for some 12 months.
“He had ample opportunity to consider what had happened and specifically consider his ongoing concealment of it,” Justice Bellew said.
Estephan’s barrister said during a recent sentence hearing that his client was a “naive” young man who had concealed the crime due to “misguided loyalty” to the older Safetli, whom he considered a friend.
But Justice Bellew said there was no evidence to support such a finding.
Instead, he found Estephan had been motivated by money to a “large measure” – pocketing some $20,000 for his role in the crime.
Estephan was sentenced to a minimum of five years for being an accessory after the fact and for the firearm offences, and a maximum of six years and five months.
Estephan has been in custody since October 2010 and could be released as early as next October.
Safetli, ex-boxer Lucky Gattellari and Senad Kaminic have all been sentenced for their role in the killing and received heavy discounts for assisting the crown.