8 April 2024

Undercover police operation allegedly led to arrest in cold case murder of Irma Palasics

| Albert McKnight
Irma Palasics

Irma Palasics was killed during a home invasion on 6 November 1999. Photo: Supplied.

Police allege a complex undercover operation ultimately led to the arrest and potential partial confession of the man accused of murdering a 72-year-old grandmother. This operation included getting him to work for a fake criminal syndicate.

On 6 November 1999, Irma Palasics died after two home invaders broke into her Mackellar home, tied her up and assaulted her.

Her husband, Gregor Palasics, was also bound before the intruders allegedly stole $30,000 cash from the home.

Police investigated the cold case for two decades before 2020 when they allege Steve Fabriczy, also known as Istvan Imre Fabriczy, was connected to the case via DNA left behind on a three-litre container of milk from the Palasicses’ fridge.

It can now be revealed that after this development, police began a covert strategy in 2022 in which undercover officers allegedly built rapport with Mr Fabriczy and then engaged him to work for a fictitious criminal syndicate.

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“Fictitious crimes and scenarios were undertaken as part of the strategy, with the defendant voluntarily, and eagerly, participating in each,” police allege in court documents.

“No actual criminal conduct occurred during the strategy, and all persons involved were law enforcement officers.”

The undercover police allegedly led Mr Fabriczy to believe that the fictitious syndicate was connected to a corrupt officer who could help them fix any issues they ran into with law enforcement.

During an alleged meeting with this fake corrupt officer, he was told his DNA had linked him to Ms Palasics’ death but that the officer could make the problem “go away”. However, he had to be honest about his involvement in the incident and, if involved, any details about it.

Steve Fabriczy was arrested in Rowville, Melbourne, in September 2023. Photo: ACT Policing.

In September 2023, he allegedly met with the head of the fake syndicate and initially denied any involvement. He claimed that clothes and a drink bottle had been stolen from his home and that these must have been used to place his DNA at the scene. When he was told this was implausible, he allegedly partially admitted his involvement.

It is alleged Mr Fabriczy told the undercover operatives he had been living in Melbourne at the time when an associate asked him to help commit a burglary in Canberra as their targets had cash in their home.

He allegedly claimed he waited outside while his associate broke into the home through a bathroom window, then he heard the sounds of “some struggling” as well as a woman saying “Don’t hurt me”, in English and Hungarian.

He then allegedly changed his story and told them he had also gone in through the window, which must have been how his DNA ended up at the property.

“I just went into the house to help him out … No, I didn’t tie them up, he tied them up … I didn’t hurt the lady,” he allegedly claimed.

“I never saw the lady… I had nothing to do with that murder or whatever it is that happened. I don’t know what happened to the lady.

“It’s a burglary that went the wrong way, you know what I mean?”

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He also allegedly said he didn’t know Ms Palasics died and repeatedly said he was ashamed about his involvement.

Police arrested Mr Fabriczy in Melbourne on 20 September 2023 and then extradited him to the ACT. When officers interviewed him, he denied being involved in her assault and claimed he couldn’t remember what happened.

Officers told him that he seemed ashamed of his alleged involvement.

“Oh definitely, ashamed, very ashamed, but I had nothing to do with her murder,” he said.

He told them he found out about the Palasicses via a “Joe” whose surname was “Vekon”. He also said they hadn’t been in contact for 20 years and allegedly implied that it was this “Joe” who was responsible for the assaults on the couple.

Newly released court documents allege Joseph Vekony was also tied to the scene via DNA taken from a plastic water jug that had been in the Palasicses’ fridge.

When police interviewed him in December 2023, he denied assaulting the Palasicses or any involvement in any of the burglaries at their homes, as when they lived in Red Hill, they had also been burgled in 1997 and 1998.

Mr Vekony suggested Mr Fabriczy was jealous that he had a family while the latter did not, which could be why Mr Fabriczy apparently claimed he was involved.

He also said he hadn’t seen Mr Fabriczy since about 1997, but didn’t explain how his own DNA was allegedly located at the scene, he just repeated that he had never been to Canberra.

Joseph Vekony with police

Joseph Vekony (second right) was extradited to the ACT over the death of Irma Palasics. Photo: ACT Policing.

Mr Fabriczy, a 69-year-old from Rowville in Melbourne, has pleaded not guilty to charges that included murder and was committed for trial late last month. His case will next be in the Supreme Court on 10 April.

Mr Vekony, a 68-year-old from Endeavour Hills in Melbourne, has also pleaded not guilty to his charges, including murder, and was committed for trial by the ACT Magistrates Court on Monday (8 April). He will first face the Supreme Court on 17 April.

“Do you have any questions, Mr Vekony?” Magistrate Alexandra Burt asked him before adjourning the matter.

Mr Vekony shrugged and replied, “I can’t find words”, through a Hungarian interpreter.

Mr Palasics died from unrelated causes in 2004.

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