Victoria Police are exploring potential underworld links as they investigate the deadly shooting of a driver on a Melbourne freeway early on Saturday.
But they have stressed there is nothing to yet link the shooting death of 46-year-old Paul Virgona with gangland killers – and cannot rule out his death being a case of mistaken identity.
Mr Virgona’s body was found in a bullet-riddled van on the EastLink freeway at Donvale, in Melbourne’s east, about 2.20am on Saturday. He was the sole occupant of the vehicle, which had been reported by other motorists after it blocked the freeway’s inbound lanes.
Police believe Mr Virgona was followed by a Mercedes sedan from his home in nearby Croydon. It drove off after the shooting and was set on fire at Mooroolbark shortly before 3am.
Detective Inspector Tim Day told Melbourne radio 3AW on Monday that Mr Virgona’s van was “without doubt” targeted.
“But whether or not Paul was the target or it was mistaken identity, we are yet to establish,” he said.
Mr Virgona was a father and community sport coach who ran a wholesale fruit and vegetable business in Melbourne’s inner-north.
Detective Inspector Day said there were historic links between fruit and vegetable businesses and the underworld and “that’s clearly something we need to look at”.
“But I want to emphasise that at this stage there’s nothing in his background, at all – he’s not known to police – that would indicate why he’d be targeted,” he said.
“But the fact is we now have Paul deceased and we need to look at whether he was the target, or somebody else was.”
Police were again searching parkland in the area on Monday as their investigation continued.
They have also appealed for anyone with CCTV or dashcam vision of the incident or the people or vehicles involved to come forward.
Police are especially interested in sightings or footage of the following vehicles:
- AZE 110 (Mercedes sedan)
- ABE 158 (white Volkswagen van)
- IMC158 (grey Volkswagen Amarok)
Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or make a confidential report at crimestoppersvic.com.au.