Body in car believed to be former Rebels bikie Ricky Ciano

Ricky Ciano’s disappearance was described as out of character by his family. Photo: Facebook The crime scene outside of Oberon in the Central Tablelands where the body was found. Photo: Channel 10

Ricky Ciano was allegedly targeted in a conspiracy to murder plan at his Central Coast home in 2015. Photo: Facebook

The body of a man found in an abandoned BMW in rural NSW is believed to be a former bikie gang member who disappeared from Sydney on Saturday.

Family and friends of Ricky Ciano, 35, had feared the worst for the former Rebels bikie who allegedly survived an attempt on his life in 2015 shortly after he left the outlaw motorcycle gang.

The former president of the Rebels’ Sydney chapter disappeared after going to a friend’s house in Penrith on Saturday night.

He had been visiting Sydney from the Gold Coast to see his daughter but never made it.

On Tuesday night, a body was found in a white BMW on the side of a road in Duckmaloi, 15 kilometres from Oberon in the Central Tablelands.

While the man has not been formally identified, police suspect it is Mr Ciano.

The Homicide Squad is assisting local detectives in investigating his death.

It is understood he showed no signs of visible injury and it is unclear at this stage how he died.

On Tuesday, a close friend of Mr Ciano’s told Fairfax Media his friends and family were frantically searching for the father of five.

He last spoke to his wife on Saturday night, sending her a few text messages including one saying there was a blackout and he couldn’t charge his phone.

“It is completely unusual because he was down to visit his daughter and his daughter is his life so he wouldn’t miss it,” the friend said on Tuesday.

“It is completely out of character for him not to contact friends or family for three days.”

He said that Mr Ciano arrived in Sydney on Saturday and picked up his car from the airport.

Mr Ciano was in the Penrith area that day but had to leave his car on the roadside after he was pulled over by the police, he told his wife.

Mr Ciano left the bikie fraternity behind in 2015 to move to the Gold Coast, where most of his family live, for a lifestyle change, friends say.

He was the target of an alleged failed murder attempt at his Central Coast home in 2015.

Former Rebels Burwood chapter member Abuzar Sultani was allegedly offered $500,000 to kill Mr Ciano and conspired to carry out the contract through a staged pizza delivery.

However, the alleged execution attempt was thwarted when Mr Ciano refused to open the door to his Wamberal home.

Mr Sultani has been in custody since November, charged with conspiring to murder Mr Ciano, along with the alleged murder of crime figure Pasquale Barbaro.

Fairfax Media has previously reported on the conditions that come with leaving a bikie club, including handing back one’s bike or paying a hefty fee.

It is understood Mr Ciano was told he could walk away from the club under certain conditions, including that he remove his club tattoos.

“A post-mortem will be conducted in coming days to determine the cause of the man’s death,” a police statement said. */]]>

Sydney derby to launch Super Netball

New season: Team captains Collingwood Magpies’ Maddi Robinson, Sunshine Coast Lightning’s Geva Mentor, Melbourne Vixens’ Kate Maloney, Giants Netball’s Kimberlee Green, NSW Swifts’ Abbey McCulloch, Queensland Firebirds’ Gabi Simpson, Adelaide Thunderbirds’ Erin Bell and West Coast Fever’s Nat Medhurst. Photo: James Brickwood Suncorp Super Netball season launch. Photograph of the teams captains. LtoR Collingwood Magpies – Maddi Robinson, Sunshine Coast Lightning – Geva Mentor, Melbourne Vixens – Kate Maloney, Giants Netball – Kimberlee Green, NSW Swifts Abbey McCulloch, Queensland Firebirds – Gabi Simpson, Adelaide Thunderbirds – Erin Bell and West Coast Fever – Nat Medhurst. Photographed at The Rocks, Sydney. Wednesday 15th February 2017. Photograph by James Brickwood. SMH SPORT 170215 Photo: James Brickwood

Netball NSW will consider moving future derby games between the Swifts and Giants to the Qudos Bank Arena, with Saturday’s season-opener between the two clubs expected to sell out the Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre.

The brand new Suncorp Super Netball competition was launched at Sydney’s picturesque Hickson Road Reserve on Wednesday ahead of this weekend’s Giants-Swifts clash, which will christen the eagerly anticipated eight-team competition.

Giants captain Kimberlee??? Green and recently returned Australian Diamond Susan Pettitt will run out against their old club for the first time after switching from the Swifts in the off-season to play under former coach Julie Fitzgerald.

The intriguing contest between the heavily favoured competition newcomer and the rebuilt Swifts should have no trouble filling the 4000-capacity Sydney Olympic Sports Park Centre, with only limited tickets left for sale as of Wednesday afternoon.

Down the road the Qudos Bank Arena can house 17,500 for a netball game, but the cost of hiring the facility is roughly four times as much as the venue chosen for round one. Netball NSW will use the venue three times throughout the season to house double-headers.

“It was just too big a risk to take for the first game but gee whiz what a response [to ticket sales] we’ve had and I’m happy to say that in the future we will certainly look at options around that,” Netball NSW chief executive Carolyn Campbell said.

“Qudos Bank Arena with 8000-plus in it is a good atmosphere and venue, but the cost of it is the critical factor to be considered so you want to be very sure before you take it there.

“I believe we’ve taken a really big leap of faith and a good business judgment to take three double headers to that venue.”

The first of those is next weekend when the Swifts play the Adelaide Thunderbirds before the Giants host the West Coast Fever. Double-headers at Qudos Bank Arena are also scheduled for rounds nine and 14.

But it’s this weekend’s contest which should give Sydney netball fans a guide as to how well their teams will fare this season.

Netball experts across the country, including Australian games record holder Liz Ellis, believe the Giants are capable of winning the entire competition, while the Swifts have been tipped to struggle after the significant turnover of their playing roster since losing last year’s ANZ Championship decider to the Queensland Firebirds.

“We are going for a championship, we’re not going to lie,” Green said.

“We’ve got really good depth, in our shooting, and in our mid court and in our defensive end.

“The cool thing is we can mix things up, especially in our shooting end we’ve got two moving shooters and a tall holding [shooter] and the ability to be able to mix that up. They’re three world-class players, too, which is really cool.”

Swifts captain Abbey McCulloch expected the round one clash against the Giants would be tighter than people were predicting.

“It’s going to be interesting because we play very similar as well … it’s going to be very close and I think whoever’s the fittest team will run over the top in the end,” McCulloch said.

“I’m expecting them to play very similar to how the Swifts played last year, Julie obviously was a Swifts coach for a while. They’re going to play very connected, very fast, very slick netball.”

Winx’s breeder John Camilleri falls in love with another Street Cry filly

Big fans: Trainer James Cummings and jockey Glyn Schofield have high opinions of Villa Carlotta. Photo: Vince Caligiuri Derby winner: Glyn Schofield wins the Victoria Derby on Prized Icon. Photo: Vince Caligiuri

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“Don’t fall in love with them,” is often the advice for breeders, but there is something about Villa Carlotta that attracted the man who sold Winx, John Camilleri, to keep her.

“From the first time I saw her [Villa Carlotta], I loved her,” Camilleri said. “I just wanted to keep her. I usually sell them, but this filly was a little bit special.”

Like Winx, Villa Carlotta is a daughter of Street Cry, and Villa Carlotta got her racing career off to the perfect start by winning a maiden at Randwick on Wednesday.

“That was exciting to watch,” Camilleri said. “It was as good as watching Winx on Monday, and I’m like a proud dad with her, but it is different when you own them. She is special to me.”

Villa Carlotta has plenty of fans, including trainer James Cummings and jockey Glyn Schofield. Cummings was confident before the race, but tempered that enthusiasm with “you want to see them do it on the track”.

“She is as good as any two-year-old I have had in the past couple of years,” Cummings said. “I wanted to get that out of the way and now we have three or four options where to go next.

“It was important to have that run, so we can look at the better races coming up and we have some decisions to make.”

The race was supposed to be at Kembla Grange on Saturday and Schofield was going to try to ride the filly before coming back to Randwick, such as his opinion of her.

That was not going to be possible, so when that meeting was called off because of the heatwave and the race was rescheduled for Wednesday, Schofield was delighted.

“I wasn’t going to be able to do it on Saturday, so it was good to be able to ride her out there,” Schofield said. “She is a nice filly and we thought she was pretty good and she showed that. She was very strong at the end.”

Villa Carlotta will proceed to the Slipper lead-ups or Black Opal, but remains $101 in the Golden Slipper with Ladbrokes despite the strong win.

She was headed in the straight before fighting back to win by three-quarters of a length from Faeger and Pahruli.

Schofield made sure Villa Carlotta had plenty of room, sitting three wide with cover, coming to the turn as odds-on favourite Alizee was getting held up to his inside. Villa Carlotta hit the front and was then headed by Faeger before kicking into another gear.

“I never felt that she was going to get beaten,” Schofield said. “She felt like she had more to give.”

The Schofield-Cummings partnership will be looking for bigger fish when dual group 1 winner Prized Icon returns in Saturday’s Hobartville Stakes.

Prized Icon won the Champagne Stakes as a two-year-old and then finished his last preparation by taking out the Victoria Derby.

“He has never been underrated by us,” Schofield said. “He has come back really well and I think he could sprint well at the 1400 metres. He has been one of those that keeps getting better with every preparation.”

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Kim Jong-un’s assassination removes an embarrassment and rival to North Korean regime

Kim Jong-nam and his half-brother Kim Jong-un (inset), who is North Korea’s leader.The apparent assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s older half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, at Kuala Lumpur Airport on Monday seems intended to remove an ongoing political embarrassment and potential leadership problem for the North Korean regime. According to South Korean media, Kim Jong-nam was travelling on a valid passport in the name of Kim Chol.

Early reports say Kim, 45, was attacked by two women suspected to be North Korean agents using a chemical spray in the airport’s shopping concourse. It was obviously quick-acting because Kim died on the way to hospital.

South Korea’s national news agency, Yonhap, reported that the North’s intelligence agency, the Reconnaissance General Bureau, carried out the assassination.

The bureau is North Korea’s premier intelligence organisation, responsible for covert external operations. It has been associated with multiple attacks, including the 1968 attempt on South Korean president Park Chung-hee, the 1983 attempted assassination of South Korean president Chun Doo-hwan in Rangoon that left 21 dead, the 1987 downing of Korean Air flight 858 killing 115 people, and the 2010 attempt on high-ranking North Korean defector Hwang Jang-yeop in South Korea.

Assuming the women were bureau agents, the conduct of the attack and evading capture would have been considered carefully beforehand. It’s likely the agents will now either lie low in Malaysia or try to get to neighbouring Thailand or Indonesia, which have less stringent entry controls than Singapore.

Kim’s death by assassination would be the highest-profile North Korean death since the execution of his uncle Jang Song-thaek in North Korea in December 2013. Jang was responsible for North Korea’s economic reforms under Kim Jong-il and had supported Kim Jong-nam as the expected successor to his father, Kim Jong-il. However, Kim Jong-nam greatly embarrassed the North Korean regime when he tried to visit the Tokyo Disney Resort in 2001 using a false passport and was detained by Japanese authorities.

After that, he was effectively out of the running for the leadership and spent most of his time abroad. In September 2010, Kim Jong-il named his younger son Kim Jong-un as his chosen successor and, after his death, Kim Jong-un became supreme leader in December 2011.

Kim Jong-un was thought initially to lack the ruthlessness of his Kim dynasty predecessors, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. But he has since shown a ruthless streak in executing senior cadres seen to lack commitment to the Kim dynasty or to pose a potential threat to Kim Jong-un’s hold on power. His most unexpected act was the execution of his powerful uncle, Jang Song-thaek, for belittling Kim Jong-un behind his back and “factionalism”.

Meanwhile, Kim Jong-nam’s actions abroad were also probably causing disquiet in Pyongyang. Kim had been living in Macau under Chinese protection. It seems China found it useful to keep him in the wings as a potential pro-China replacement for his half-brother. Kim Jong-nam travelled regularly to Beijing for talks with officials and was believed to have the ongoing support of factions of the North Korean Workers Party. He had also been publicly critical of the dynastic succession process in North Korea.

Because of Kim Jong-un’s belligerent foreign policies and China’s lack of control over North Korea, there has been increasing support in China for a hardline policy against North Korea. Since 2012, plans to oust Kim from power and replace him with his half-brother have surfaced at least twice, but of course they might have been deliberate leaks to keep Kim Jong-un in line.

Any decision to eliminate Kim would have come from the top. Kim was always watched closely by the Reconnaissance General Bureau and it had, according to an arrested North Korean agent, considered killing him via a hit-and-run “accident” in China. However, it would have been considered preferable to avoid problems with China by killing him elsewhere. His regular travels to Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and France provided a better option.

For the record, Kim Jong-nam was the product of Kim Jong-il’s extramarital relationship with Sung Hae-Rim, a South Korean-born actress.

Clive Williams is honorary professor at the Australian National University’s Centre for Military and Security Law and an adjunct professor at the Australian Defence Force Academy.

NSW Waratahs’ Jake Gordon putting pressure on Nick Phipps, says Nathan Grey

Jake Gordon will start at halfback for the NSW Waratahs on Thursday in their trial against the Highlanders. Photo: Les SmithNSW Waratahs halfback Jake Gordon has earned a trial match starting spot against the Highlanders and Nathan Grey says the rookie is putting pressure on Wallabies representative Nick Phipps.

The Waratahs have recalled stars Michael Hooper, Israel Folau, Sekope Kepu, Dean Mumm, Will Skelton and Bernard Foley for their final pre-season match, at Brookvale Oval on Thursday night.

Irae Simone will start at inside-centre, Andrew Kellaway at fullback, while Harry Jones and Reece Robinson have been selected on the left and right wings, respectively.

An all-Wallabies front row of Tom Robertson, who has switched over to loose-head, Tolu Latu and Kepu will pack down in front of second-rowers Mumm and Skelton.

Jack Dempsey, Hooper and Michael Wells round out the back row.

The most eye-raising selection is that of Gordon, who had a stellar NRC campaign last season.

That is not to say Phipps, who featured in four of five Tests on the Wallabies spring tour – he did not get on the field against Ireland in Dublin – will not walk straight back into the starting spot next Saturday in round one.

However, Grey said there was a genuine selection headache brewing when it came to the halfback spot.

“There’s three [number] nines in the program at the moment that are all training and performing in a way that is making the decisions difficult for [head coach] Daryl [Gibson],” Grey said. “Jake and Matty Lucas will be getting time and they’re pushing really hard.”

Asked whether Phipps was still the frontrunner to play halfback against the Western Force in just over a week, Grey said: “We’re very confident in what Nick can do. Daryl’s really clear and honest with the guys around that nine spot is up for grabs. It’s up to the other guys to probably really step up and take it off him.”

The Highlanders will field a strong side, with New Zealand backs Ben Smith, Waisake Naholo and Malakai Fekitoa all getting a run.

All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith, regarded by many as the best in the world, will also be there in what will be a “really good contest” for Gordon.

“It’s really good to test yourself against a quality outfit,” Grey said. “We’ve got no doubt he [Gordon] can do that and it’ll be a really good test for him and a few other guys around just trying to execute what we can against quality opposition in a tough arena.”

Foley slots back into the chief playmaker role and will have a new man in Simone outside him, a player Grey and Foley have big wraps on.

“He’s been impressive and does a lot of the fundamental things well, which is really pleasing to see,” Grey said. “He’s played well in the trials, so he’s performing at a high level in the company that he is in and it’ll be another step up this week against the Highlanders.”

Foley said: “Irae has set the place on fire. He’s an extreme talent and he’s a big guy. He doesn’t shy away from the contact. He’s been really impressive in trying to fill that void of Kurtley [Beale] gone.”

The match will begin at 6.30pm and will be split into two 45-minute halves.

Waratahs: Tom Robertson, Tolu Latu, Sekope Kepu, Dean Mumm, Will Skelton, Jack Dempsey, Michael Hooper, Michael Wells, Jake Gordon, Bernard Foley, Harry Jones, Irae Simone, Israel Folau, Reece Robinson, Andrew Kellaway.

Reserves: Hugh Roach, Paddy Ryan, David Lolohea, Sam Needs, David McDuling, Nick Phipps, Matt Lucas, David Horwitz, Senio Toleafoa, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Ned Hanigan, Brad Wilkin, Maclean Jones, Con Foley, Bryce Hegarty, Andrew Deegan/Mack Mason.

Highlanders: Daniel Lienert-Brown, Liam Coltman, Siate Tokolahi, Tom Franklin, Jackson Hemopo, Liam Squire, James Lentjes, Luke Whitelock, Aaron Smith, Lima Sopoaga, Tevita Li, Rob Thompson, Malakai Fekitoa, Waisake Naholo, Ben Smith.

Reserves: Aki Seiuli, Craig Millar, Siosuia Halanukonuka, Guy Millar, Adrian Smith, Josh Dickson, Alex Ainley, Elliot Dixon, Gareth Evans, Dillon Hunt, Kayne Hammington, Josh Renton, Fletcher Smith, Sio Tomkinson, Teihorangi Walden, Matt Faddes, Pat Osborne, Jason Emery.