Hells Angels warfare erupted in Sydney Airport's domestic Qantas terminal yesterday when up to 15 bikies fatally bashed a rival Comanchero in front of terrified passengers.The 28-year-old man, believed to be a member of a bikie gang, was treated for severe head injuries at the airport but later died at the Prince of Wales Hospital. Last night four men were in custody over the bashing, which was witnessed by at least 50 people and which police described as premeditated. The dead man was one of at least two suspected gang members who had stepped off a flight from Melbourne shortly after 1.30pm. Stunned travellers said the fighting had broken out near one of the arrival and departure gates, with rivals brandishing metal poles normally used to separate queuing passengers. The dead man was struck on the head with at least one of the poles, witnesses said. "It was awful, I'm sick, it was appalling, I've never seen anything like it in my life," one witness told The Australian. "Babies were getting knocked out of strollers. It was terrible. They were fighting all through here. It was gangs. "They were bashing one man with those (chrome) stands you can see over there. I think they had a knife as well."
Another witness, Phil Cruz, told ABC radio the fighting began near departure gate 5 before moving to the check-in area. "It looked like two people fighting at first, and then all of a sudden a whole rush of guys came through the crowd, picked up the poles and just started smacking this guy in the head with the poles."
Mr Cruz said the attackers had escaped in taxis. The horrific incident raises new questions over airport security and follows reports in The Australian last week that the number of sworn police guarding Australia's major airports remains 35per cent below state and federal targets. Police said last night they had about 50 witnesses to the attack, as well as closed-circuit television footage. They believe the clash involved rival bikie gangs but were unable to confirm a report that the dead man was a member of the Bandidos, or another that Hell's Angels and Comancheros were involved. Botany Bay crime manager Peter Williams said police were still trying to determine which gangs were involved. "As far as we know we're investigating a murder involving up to 15 gang members," Inspector Williams said. "It would appear there was a degree of planning that went into this. "It would appear a group of males have exited a plane and they were met by another group of males who we believe may be other motorcycle gang members," Inspector Williams said. "A fight ensued, the fight moved through various parts of the terminal to the ultimate location where the man was deceased." A flight attendant reportedly noted tension between what she suspected were gang members on the flight from Melbourne, but a Qantas spokeswoman said she was not aware of any incidents on the aircraft. Inspector Williams said last night that four men were in custody and crime scenes had been established.
Inspector Williams described the public beating as "gruesome". "It was a disgraceful act perpetrated by a group of cowards who believe they're tough," he said. "It's very gruesome for them to do it in public." Sydney has in recent weeks seen a number of shootings linked to drug and bikie gang violence and NSW Police Minister Tony Kelly is due to meet with police to discuss boosting police powers to deal with the problem. In an another incident early yesterday, seven houses were damaged and two people injured during a shootout in the western suburb of Auburn. The NSW Opposition seized on the incidents to call for tough legislation similar to South Australia's Organised Crime Control Act, which makes membership or association with outlawed clubs illegal and carries up to 10 years in jail for bikie club members and their associates who engage in group violence. The airport attack resulted in severe traffic congestion at Sydney's domestic terminal but few aircraft delays.
A Qantas spokeswoman said aircraft had been delayed eight or nine minutes and very few people had missed their flights. "Check-in was never fully closed, it was just six check-in counters that were not operational," she said.