The crime boss, his estranged son and the double homicide outside a Prahran nightclub, the Love Machine

Eleven hours after Jacob Elliott fired a small .32 Mauser pistol from the passenger seat of a stolen Porsche and killed two people outside a nightclub in Prahran in 2019, his father, crime boss Nabil Maghnie, asked him if he wanted to go to football.

The invitation to see Richmond play Sydney at Marvel Stadium was an odd request. Jacob, then 18, had spent years trying to get closer to his father, a prominent and feared figure from Melbourne’s underworld.

“I just said yes to him at first because that’s what I always do,” Jacob testified of his father’s request during his recent murder trial in Victoria High Court.

But he soon changed his mind. “As soon as I had the opportunity, I just texted him back and said, ‘Listen, I don’t feel like it tonight, I’m just going to sit back’ … I’m not going to a football game after what just happened. I wasn’t in the right condition.

“I wanted to be a part of his life and … be his son … I didn’t necessarily want to be a part of that other side of things.”

Nabil Maghnie (centre) was a feared criminal figure.

Nabil Maghnie (centre) was a feared criminal figure.Recognition:Chris Hopkins

However, Jacob’s realization came too late.

Last month, Jacob received two life sentences for killing guard Aaron Khalid Osmani and the club’s patron Richard Arow. His testimony, transcripts of his father’s phone calls and evidence from friends and family, all unearthed at his trial, provide a glimpse into a family whose relationships would culminate in one of Melbourne’s worst acts of public violence in recent years.

The Invitation to Soccer captures the strained relationship at the heart of the nightclub murders: a father who wanted to keep his son a secret and a son desperate for his approval.

For Nabil (who himself was murdered just nine months later), the Love Machine murders were not a new chapter in the underworld war, but a final act in a personal feud with the nightclub’s owner.

Nabil’s daughter Sabrine, known for posting glamorous pictures on Instagram, was previously banned from the club, while his underage son Ali was thrown out on the night of the shooting. Angry and drunk, Ali called his father from the taxi and said he had been dragged out of the venue by security forces.

For most of his life, Jacob had been estranged from the Maghnie family. He was born from an extramarital relationship that Nabil had with Jacob’s mother, Melinda Elliott.

Family was important to the Maghnies. Sabrine got her father’s nickname, “Mad Lebo,” tattooed on her leg after he was gunned down in January 2020 (Nabil had the same nickname on his own stomach).

But when Nabil reconnected with Jacob, he told him to keep it a secret. Nabil had been largely absent from his son’s life, but they began to have a relationship during Jacob’s teenage years, by which time Nabil had an extensive criminal history. “I was happy living in his family world and having that father-son relationship with him,” Elliott told the court, “but I wasn’t happy being in it.”

A young Jacob Elliott with his father, murdered crime boss Nabil Maghnie.

A young Jacob Elliott with his father, murdered crime boss Nabil Maghnie.

Court documents show Nabil had a 27-page criminal record dating back to 1993. He was known for brawling with Mongolian bikes in a brothel and beating up the bouncer at a CBD nightclub for refusing him entry and was accused of crashing his luxury car in Woodstock, north of the city, during on cocaine. Underworld figures described him as a “dead man walking”.

His temper and propensity for violence had led to arguments with employees. He was shot three times and drove himself to the hospital after being hit in the cheek in 2016. He had ties to the Comancheros gang suspected of being behind arson attacks and drive-by shootings at the South Melbourne strip club Kittens, and was also involved in the racketeering of nightclub Two Floors Up.

Detectives also suspected he was involved in a series of unsolved shootings and four murders, but he was never charged. He was questioned about the murder of Mitat Rasimi, an associate of drug lord Tony Mokbel, and was a suspect in the attempted murder of former bikie Toby Mitchell outside a Braunschweig gym in 2011.

At the time of filming Love Machine, Nabil had a network of young men — including his son Jacob — who were dealing in stolen cars and holding guns on his behalf.

Despite being forbidden by his father, Jacob had connected with his family by messaging AJ, Nabil’s eldest son, on Facebook. Before that, Jacob’s half-siblings had never heard of him. He would eventually move into the Maghnie family home in Bundoora and take the family name on Instagram.

Jacob longed to be a maghnie and told the court he sought his father’s approval and seldom dared contradict his wishes. “In my opinion he was pretty tough on me and he was pretty strict on me and I struggled with that. I was intimidated by him [sic].”

A stolen black Porsche Cayenne burns after being used in the Love Machine nightclub shooting.

A stolen black Porsche Cayenne burns after being used in the Love Machine nightclub shooting.Recognition:Nine messages

The father-son reconciliation was short-lived. In January 2020, 44-year-old Nabil was gunned down in Epping, north Melbourne, when responsibility for a car accident involving a relative was charged. No one has been charged with his murder. In the months leading up to his death, Nabil became paranoid and kept looking over his shoulder, Jacob told the court. He would flex and not sleep for days.

Jacob told the court he was haunted by the Love Machine shooting. He said he couldn’t look at himself in the mirror. As his head hit the pillow, he couldn’t help but think about those four shots. He said he had never picked up a gun before that night, he made a mistake. The shots should be warning shots and not kill anyone. “I’m only human and I did something stupid [sic]. I made a stupid decision and wish I could go back and change. I would do anything to go back and change it.”

Nabil and Jacob’s relationship deteriorated after the shooting. While Jacob struggled, Nabil scolded him. “He was always yelling at me, he was always, ‘I’m disappointed in you. I’m not like that, I’ve never been like that. Why are you like that?’” Jacob said. “It was always criticism.”

On June 1, 2019, in a phone call about money, Jacob told Nabil, “I would do anything to make you smile, you know. All I want to see is that you’re happy… When you’re upset, it hurts like hell.” Nabil replied, “I want you to take care of yourself for that, take care of your family.”

A forensic officer investigates the scene outside of Love Machine.

A forensic officer investigates the scene outside of Love Machine.Recognition:Chris Hopkins

During his murder trial, Jacob took on various roles. He was polite and thoughtful at times, seeming aware of his father’s attraction and the profound changes their relationship had made in his life after being raised mostly by women.

However, when he was convicted, his behavior was aggressive and cruel. He laughed in the faces of the grieving families of his victims and clapped during the hearing. He refused to stand in for Judge Andrew Tinney, who dismissed Jacob’s claims that he fired warning shots and said both men were willing participants in an attack motivated by a “desire for revenge”. Tinney said the revenge attack was a serious and calculated crime aimed at sending a violent and chilling message. “Shut up and read the sentence,” Jacob cursed at Tinney.

“In the devastating scene of carnage you left in Prahran, Mr. Osmani and Mr. Arow lay mortally wounded in the street,” Tinney said. “The relative calm on the streets of Melbourne had been disturbed and defiled by a crime of such viciousness and lawlessness that it shocked the community. All this for a petty and senseless act of vengeance and retribution.”

A fight broke out in court after the brother of one of the victims accused Jacob. “It’s fine,” he murmured to his mother, Melinda, who cried as he was led away.

After all, it turned out that the April 14 football invitation that Nabil had extended to Jacob was for the wrong day. The Richmond-Sydney game took place the following week, April 20th, at the Marvel. Nabil might have misunderstood the game. The father-son trip to the footy was never meant to be.

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Joel McCord

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