The accused murderer of Brunswick woman Maryam Hamka asked a friend to bring a steam cleaner to his home that the pair used to clean the crime scene, police have alleged in court.
Part-time pool cleaner Oscar Newman, 26, was on Wednesday charged with assisting an offender as part of the investigation into the suspicious disappearance and alleged murder of Ms Hamka.
Police are investigating the disappearance of Brunswick woman Maryam Hamka. Credit:Nine News
Ms Hamka’s former boyfriend, Toby Loughnane, was last week charged with murder over her death. Her body has not been found.
Further details of the police case against the pair were aired in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Wednesday as Mr Newman unsuccessfully applied for bail.
Detective Senior Constable Jason Stewart from the missing persons squad said police allege Mr Loughnane, 41, enlisted the help of Mr Newman to clean the crime scene because the younger man had a gambling problem and owed him a “significant” debt of about $45,000.
Mr Loughnane allegedly murdered Ms Hamka on April 11, a day after she was last seen, at his Brighton home. CCTV footage allegedly shows Mr Newman was at the address for five hours on April 12, when police believe the body was inside the house.
Investigators believe the body was moved in the early hours of April 13. Police allege Mr Newman loaned his red Mazda to Mr Loughnane, who used the vehicle to dispose of Ms Hamka’s remains. A forensic examination identified Ms Hamka’s blood in the car.
On April 15, CCTV footage allegedly shows Mr Newman arrived at the address with a steam cleaner and can of petrol. He stayed the night, during which he “assisted Loughnane in cleaning”, Senior Detective Stewart alleged.
The purchase of the steam cleaner was arranged by Mr Newman, who asked a friend of his to collect it after buying it on Gumtree, the court heard.
When police executed a search warrant at the Brighton home on April 16, they say, they found steam cleaners, as well as bottles of ammonia and bleach.
Senior Detective Stewart told the court police believed there was a “high probability” that Mr Newman knew the location of Ms Hamka’s remains.
”I don’t have any direct evidence in so far as that he knows, but there is a high degree of probability, I submit, that his attendance at that house on the days, for the duration, that he does know.”
The court heard the pair had been “close associates” for about a year, and Mr Loughnane used to work with Mr Newman’s brother.
“In relation to their relationship, I would allege and will be alleging in the brief of evidence that there is a debt owed to Mr Loughnane from this accused and it’s a significant financial debt,” the detective said.
“The accused has a gambling problem, a large gambling problem, and has had it for years going back to school.”
Prosecutor Emma Fargher said she opposed bail as Mr Newman was an unacceptable risk of interfering with witnesses and obstructing the course of justice.
“In this case the body of the deceased is yet to be located by police and in my submission it’s a very real and unacceptable risk that this accused may have further opportunity to interfere with the police investigation into the murder,” she said.
Ms Fargher said the case against Mr Newman was very strong, and included a wealth of CCTV evidence that showed he attended the Brighton house nine times between April 11 and 16, including at times when the prosecution allege the “deceased had already been murdered and her body was at the property”.
Mr Newman’s lawyer Hazel Whalley argued that the CCTV footage police had obtained showed Mr Newman outside the house but did not prove what had happened inside the home on those days.
“It’s a circumstantial case … not a strong circumstantial case,” she said.
She said her client had no criminal history and, if granted bail on strict conditions, could stay with his mother, who would provide a $5000 surety.
Magistrate Andrew McKenna denied the man bail, saying he could not see any conditions that could be imposed that would ameliorate the risks. He said the allegations were “particularly serious”.
“The concealment of the body of Ms Hamka is a serious matter indeed,” he said. He said the suggestion by police that Mr Newman knows where the body is located was “not a ridiculous suggestion” given it seemed the pair had a close relationship and trusted each other.
“On what I’ve heard, the case is not a weak case of this accused’s complicity,” he said. “It is a significantly strong circumstantial case in my opinion.”
Mr Newman will remain in custody until he next faces court on December 3.
Ms Hamka, 36, was last seen leaving the Albert Street Woolworths in Brunswick about 5.30pm on April 10. She told family members she was going to visit a friend in Brighton before she was reported missing on April 15.
Anyone with information about Ms Hamka’s whereabouts should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 222 000, or submit a confidential crime report at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au.
With Cassandra Morgan and Erin Pearson
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