The reputed owner of a sprawling brothel enterprise stands under the shadow of potential investigation tied to assertions that he had coerced the mother and sister of a slain woman into obscuring facts regarding his professional activities. This development surfaced during trials taking place in the Victoria Supreme Court, with lead investigator Detective Senior Constable Mathew Evans providing his testimony.
The proceedings revolve around 36-year-old Ricardo Barbaro, indicted for his girlfriend Ellie Price’s murder in an alleged domestic altercation in the wee hours at her South Melbourne residence on April 29, 2020. The 26-year-old woman lost her life, and Barbaro’s defence attorney Rishi Nathwani maintains his client’s innocence while hypothesizing other potential suspects might have had motives for her death.
Cross-examined by Nathwani, Detective Evans acknowledged that he had not forwarded Mark Gray, Ms Price’s associate, for scrutiny concerning charges of directing two witnesses to veil his brothel-affiliated activities in previous court proceedings. Evans, however, reflected he would deliberate on this possibility following the trial’s conclusion in consultation with the Office of Public Prosecutions.
Gray, whose past reported financial support to Ms Price included funding her Mercedes Benz and residence, negated speculations of an indulgent relationship, asserting his motivations were purely altruistic. He claimed to be assisting her regain stability and that she was reciprocating as much as she could manage.
Gray was previously accused by Nathwani of attempting to obstruct justice by exploiting Danielle Price, Ms Price’s sister, and their mother, Tracey Gangell. In response, Gray asserted having inquired about his possible mention in their police statements regarding his brothels in NSW and Victoria, yet he had been emphatic about them not distorting the truth.
Expressing concern over his potential professional disclosure causing embarrassment, Gray outlined his private nature and his concern for his family and friends if his involvement with legal yet morally contentious businesses were to emerge publically. He made it known numerous acquaintances perceive him as an accountant.
A series of texts between Gray and Danielle produced for the jury highlighted Gray’s enquiry into her confessions to the police about his brothels. Danielle concurred with Nathwani’s insinuation that Gray had advised her to omit details regarding his connection with brothels and had directed her to state the amounts given to Ellie were loans not gifts. Despite this, Gray firmly maintained he had implored Danielle to communicate truthfully.
Under Nathwani’s questioning, Gangell, citing memory issues, could not confirm if Gray had manipulated her conversation or recall its specifics. Cross-examined further about his possibly employing underworld contacts to silence Ms Price following alleged threats of extortion, Gray categorically denied the charges but confirmed Ms Price had demanded a sum of $100,000 shortly before her demise and threatened statutory rape charges against him.
Barbaro found himself in police custody a week post the gruesome discovery of Ms Price’s lifeless body in her blood-soaked abode on May 5. The prosecution asserts that Mr Barbaro committed the heinous act around 4:30 a.m. six days prior, before departing in her Mercedes-Benz, never to see her again.