How Tinsel Fadlallah Became Sydney’s Notorious Gangster

“It used to be an unwritten law, especially in organized crime, not to touch family and not to touch women. I think that rule of engagement was thrown out the window, it’s now being flouted. I think they just don’t care anymore, they don’t differentiate if you’re male or female,” he said.

The shooting leaves police and observers puzzled as to why Fadlallah justified an organized strike and how deeply involved she was in the criminal underworld. Was her death simply the product of the society she maintained? Or was she a player? Have the rules changed towards women or was she a woman who went beyond the usual rules for women in the context of organized crime?

Sydney's underworld figure Tilly Devine directly with her former rival Kate Leigh in 1948.

Sydney’s underworld figure Tilly Devine directly with her former rival Kate Leigh in 1948.Recognition:sun news

Two of the most prominent figures in organized crime in Sydney were women – the notorious Tilly Devine and her fierce rival Kate Leigh.

The two women were not petty criminals, but according to author Larry Writer, who wrote about the duo in his book, were the city’s major crime figures of the 1920s and early 1930s razorthat formed the basis lower abdomen: razor, a drama that will be broadcast on Nine, the publisher of this newspaper.

“They were criminal masterminds,” he said The Sun Messenger.

“They had gangs doing their bidding. They ran the equivalent of million-dollar businesses in brothels, smart grog [the unlicensed sale of alcohol] and various criminal enterprises.”

A number of murders were committed at the behest of the two women, Writer said.

The duo managed to thrive in the patriarchal world of the 1920s Sydney underworld by being “more ruthless and smarter than the men,” Writer said.

“They were also very intimidating, they overcame obstacles through sheer willpower.”

In the past 100 years, no woman has been as prominent in the city’s criminal life as Devine or Leigh, but that doesn’t mean women haven’t played a significant role in organized crime.

Historically, organized crime has been “a very patriarchal thing” linked to traditional values ​​and structures of extended families, where a strong male figure looks after a larger group of families, the former NSW detective and associate professor of criminology said , dr Michael Kennedy That Sun Herald.

Outsiders often mistakenly perceive the women in these groups as powerless or subservient, he said. But women involved in crime families or organizations could be up to their necks in the business and even try their own ventures so long as they didn’t become a liability to the larger enterprise.

Fingerprint dust covers a car on Hendy Avenue, Panania, where Tinsel Fadlallah was shot.

Fingerprint dust covers a car on Hendy Avenue, Panania, where Tinsel Fadlallah was shot.Recognition:Nick Moir

These women tended to hold back and draw less police attention than their male counterparts, he said.

A senior official said women linked to criminal gangs are not naïve: “They don’t drive by outside, but they know what’s going on.

“It’s rare for them to be the top of the tree, but they’re certainly fair game when they are.”

Sometimes women got their hands very dirty.

A decade ago, as a gang war raged in the city’s southwest between the Bankstown and Blacktown chapters of the notorious Brothers 4 Life gang, a Sydney paralegal with no criminal background began dating a high-profile gang member while he was locked away in Goulburn’s high-security supermax .

The woman, who can only be identified under the court-ordered alias Witness M, became a high-ranking gang figure.

Witness M, 32, drove a getaway car from a gangland hit and attempted murder in 2013. She later pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting prior to the fact of murder and aiding and abetting the firing of a firearm with intent to cause grievous bodily harm prior to the fact.

Earlier this month, gangland widow and organized crime figure in her own right Roberta Williams pleaded guilty to extorting and recklessly injuring a Melbourne television producer.

Women were also in the line of fire before Fadlallah’s assassination. As the two chapters of Brothers 4 Life battled each other, a woman, Lola Hamzy, was shot and killed through the front door of her west Sydney home. The 2014 crime remains unsolved. The year before, Maha Hamze was shot at 21 times, eight bullets into her legs, over a money dispute between her relative and another man.

Kennedy believes that Fadlallah “has become a liability for one or more reasons.” Since her death, the underworld has begun to speculate that she is colluding with law enforcement. “In this area, everyone is always suspicious of everyone else. If people were arrested around them, questions would be asked.”

A senior detective in conversation with the herald Last week was ready to venture that Fadlallah was “Sydney’s rarest gangster – a woman”.

Fadlallah’s mother last week described her not as a gangster but as “the life of the party” — something Kennedy believes may have contributed to her downfall.

He said The Australian: “It might be okay to be the life of the party in Hollywood, but not when you’re part of an organized crime structure where you want to keep a low profile.”

Fadlallah was known to police through her two marriages – she was married to Shadi Derbas, a former Telopea Street gang member who was sentenced to five years in prison for tampering with evidence in a murder, and later married the late standover man Helal Safi of Kings Cross.

“The 48-year-old is known to the police, has past associations and relationships with other identities known to the police. Because of this, one theory is that she most likely would have been the intended target. The 39-year-old woman sitting next to her is an innocent party to all of this,” Homicide detective Doherty said.

Although Fadlallah had only a few criminal records, there is evidence that she was involved in selling drugs. Investigators are following this, as well as a previous romantic relationship that went awry or is in serious debt, as key lines of inquiry in the wide-ranging investigation, which will see officers interview dozens of witnesses, comb through months of CCTV footage and speak at length to sources within the underworld.


“We have several crime scenes and a lot of forensic exhibits including vehicles and ammunition,” NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb said on Thursday.

“It’s really early days and too early to speculate on cause, motive, anything.

“Unfortunately, they all need time. I wish it was CSI and it went very quickly, but it doesn’t. That’s just the reality,” she said.

The Morning Edition Newsletter is our guide to the day’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up here. How Tinsel Fadlallah Became Sydney’s Notorious Gangster

Joel McCord

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