Residents on Glenhuntly Road in Caulfield South were quickly evacuated from their apartments early this morning after a "suspicious" explosion set Kittens ablaze around 3 AM.
I've worked in the nightclub industry for many years, and I've noticed the rhythms and trends that unfold across different places. Old friends still working the doors keep tabs on the latest whispers spreading in their sinister networks. This is how I've come about some of the background information I'll share here.
I'd say this all started in September last year. Kittens contracts a security company to look after its venues and in September the security company's owner, a guy named Clay Auimatagi, was shot in leg as he stood outside his gym in Narre Warren. Victoria Police have since investigated the claim that there's a turf war escalating between Auimatagi's company and the outlaw Comancheros bikie gang, who have a clubhouse in the neighbouring suburb of Hallam.
Hallam is also home to Nitro Gym, which is owned by the former Comancheros boss Mick Murray. Mick also used to operate a company called Nitro Security, which has recently grown a few offshoots including Ultimate Crown Control Pty Ltd. This business was owned by another Comancheros member— a guy named Robert Morando. In October last year, Morando was shot and left for dead in Narre Warren, only a few weeks after his rival Clay Auimatagi. It seemed to be a simple case of retaliation, most likely over security business contracts.
Gyms, security companies, tattoo parlours—these are often the go-to rackets for Melbourne's underground syndicates. In this tribal landscape those with the fiercest reputation reap the rewards of power and money. Problems arise when new players try testing the old guard, which is exactly what's happening here.
In November, a month after the attack on Morando, the Comancheros retaliated with a drive-by shooting outside Kittens' South Melbourne venue, injuring a security guard. A white Audi linked to the shooting was discovered in Port Melbourne a short time afterwards, burned out and dumped on the side of the road.
Then in January a second drive-by shooting at the South Melbourne club occurred. A bouncer survived being shot in the face with three shotgun pellets that ricocheted across the venue's front door. A burned out, stolen white Holden Maloo was found in Melton a day later.
Last night residents in Caulfield South heard a car idling behind Kittens before the explosion. An eyewitness saw a white BMW speed away from the flames. Around 6 AM this morning a car with the same description was found in Hallam, burned out and dumped. Notice how the cars are always white.
In the last few weeks, former bouncers from Kittens South Melbourne have claimed the company had revoked their contract with Clay Auimatagi, refusing to use his guards at the venue. Many theories have since circulated the club scene. Maybe Auimatagi has a personal vendetta against the Comancheros that crosses turf in Hallam, and security contracts across Melbourne. Others think the outlaw motorcycle club is attempting to extort Kittens. Maybe it's both.
A third theory is that the attacks are tit-for-tat from something further back. Early last year a Comancheros associate was released from prison after being jailed for violence at a different club. When he tried to get into one of the clubs Auimatagi's company secures, he was rejected and bashed by the bouncers. A month later Clay Auimatagi was shot in Narre Warren.