Harrowing discovery in shallow grave
WARNING: Graphic content
WAYNE Schneider was a tough, high-ranking Hells Angels bikie with a reputation in the Sydney underworld as an international drug kingpin.
But he had little chance when five men, four in black silk balaclavas, descended on his luxury villa in November, 2015 in the seaside Thai town of Pattaya.
Within hours, Schneider would be dead and his body dumped in a forest grave.
An inquiry into his cause of death will return to the New South Wales Coroner's Court in Sydney on Thursday.
In late 2015, Schneider had been living for almost four years in Pattaya, a resort 140km outside of Bangkok that is known for sex tourism and fugitive crime gangs.
The 38-year-old had fled Australia in February 2012, after police busted two clandestine methamphetamine labs in the south-west Sydney suburbs of Narellan and Catherine Fields.
In Thailand, he caught up with another Australian, kickboxer Antonio Bagnato, who had also absconded from the law.
Bagnato left Australia two days after the 2014 ambush, stabbing and shooting murder of Sydney father-of-two, Bradley Dillon.
In Pattaya, Bagnato, also a former bikie gang member and a Muay Thai fighter, became a neighbour of Schneider's and the men - who had shared business interests - often drank together.
Bagnato regularly talked about the secretive Sydney organisation known as Saint Michael Fight Club in the city's inner-west, and had been trying to recruit new members for the group in Thailand.
He had moved to Thailand after the August 11, 2014 murder of Mr Dillon, 25, who was killed over a debt owed to him by a member of Saint Michael Fight Club. Bagnato's cousin, Diego Carbone, has since been convicted of his murder.
Schneider and Bagnato had been partners in a gym in Sydney, and reportedly involved in drug deals in Thailand.
But on November 29, 2015, it was Bagnato who came calling with his masked associates.
They beat him and forced him into a Toyota Hilux utility and took him to a rented house.
There they tied Schneider to a metal commode wheelchair and beat him until he passed out.
At some point, Schneider's assailants are believed to have left the house for several hours.
When they returned, the Hells Angels bikie may have already been dead.
Before dawn the next day, they bundled him into the ute and took him 30km south to a woodland grove, where they dug a 1.8m grave.
One day later, using data from the rented ute's GPS signal, Thai police went to a forest grove near a Chinese temple and found the grave in bushes. It was in a grassy area that had been disturbed by a vehicle and the officers followed it to a plot of freshly turned earth.
They started digging and a metre below ground found the body of Wayne Schneider; his neck had been broken and his left eye fractured.
Police noticed there was a wound oozing blood from the side of his head.
Police were led to a reservoir where Schneider's clothes and other items were dumped after he was killed.
Blood and bullet casings were found at his villa when police arrived.
Witnesses told police the Toyota ute had been at the gravesite for several hours, and police tracked down the renter - Antonio Bagnato's Thai wife Siraphat Saimart, 25.
Thai Police issued a warrant for Bagnato, who had fled the country, driving in a private car to Cambodia.
A 21-year-old American was detained on the Thai-Cambodian border and brought back to Pattaya for questioning
Days later, police arrested Bagnato, then 26, in a raid on a cheap hotel in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh and he was extradited back to Thailand.
A Thai court subsequently found Bagnato guilty and sentenced him to death; he is on death row in the notorious Bang Kwang Central Prison, better known as the "Bangkok Hilton".
Last December, Thai police arrested four Hells Angels bikies who allegedly had links to Wayne Schneider.
A Thai court heard that Bagnato had hired the four men to kidnap and kill Schneider in 2015.
Court documents alleged Bagnato was attempting to open an overseas chapter of Saint Michael Fight Club when he murdered Schneider, reportedly over a drug dispute.
Last November, the NSW Coroner heard that Schneider may have died alone in the rented house he was taken to, and left for a time by his assailants after they beat him.
Detective Sergeant Paul Roe from the NSW Police Gangs Squad told the inquest he travelled to Thailand to investigate the circumstances of Schneider's death with local police.
Police told him Schneider was most likely bashed to death, with Bagnato being the instigator.
"It looked like he co-ordinated and organised the whole thing, as far as we can see," Detective Sergeant Roe said.
He said Schneider was likely alive when he was taken to the rented home, because he had ligature marks on his leg consistent with being tied, and there was blood found in the same room as the metal wheelchair.
"He was left for a period of time - I don't know how long - in that room by himself," Detective Sergeant Roe said. "Allegedly when they returned to that room, Schneider had passed away. My understanding was they stripped his body there, removed his clothes, and that's when they took him to that roadside grave."
Acting state coroner Teresa O'Sullivan found Schneider died by homicide at the house where he was detained, from a blunt-force injury to his head.
His body was returned to Sydney in December 2015, where it was cremated following a funeral.
Wayne Schneider's inquest is listed for Thursday morning at Glebe Coroner's Court before Ms O'Sullivan.