He bragged about his armed robberies, shot three police and ran security for an underworld figure, but midway through a prison sentence Jim Taousanis had a vision.
It was what the Anglican Church described as an “extreme spiritual experience” and one that helped him find religion.
Suddenly the man who feared no one feared God, and according to his friend and Anglican priest, David Smith, this turned him into a gentle Christian who was ashamed of his past acts.
So gentle, in fact, the former commando and fitness instructor volunteered two months ago to help an unknown boxer “glove up” and prepare for a charity boxing match.
Ironically, that boxer was police acting-inspector Luke Freudenstein —the man with the job of finding who tried to assassinate the 37-year-old former Kings Cross enforcer.
Taousanis was yesterday formally Interviewed by detectives who believe they have identified the man who shot him three times last Saturday but not who contracted the “hit”.
Taousanis, who gave evidence against crime figures Neddy Smith and Lennie McPherson and allegedly corrupt police officers, already had two contracts out on his life.
He was shot three times on Saturday as he walked his fiancee Maree Stellas home. They were to be married the next day.
Taousanis had only been out of Jail since last December and was on bail to face charges over the alleged bashing death of a former drug importer.
Mr Smith said he had only known Taousanis for a year but knew he was a changed man regretful of his past.
While he planned to marry at the St Euphemia Church in Bankstown, he had held his buck’s night at a Bible-reading session at the Anglican Holy Trinity church.
“The way I’ve seen him described by people as one of Sydney’s most vicious underworld figures, all I can say it’s got nothing to do with the guy I’ve met,” Mr Smith said.
“You pick up a lot about a guy when you box with him and me and Jim have gone a lot of rounds together.
“It’s a bloody miracle if what I’ve read about him and, I assume the reports are true, he was once a feared vicious underworld figure.
“The only Jim I’ve ever known is a gentle, caring guy always out to help people. He definitely feels bad and guilty about his past, I assume part of his motivation is he wants to make amends.”
Mr Smith said Taousanis was an active member of the church and had given lectures to teenagers about his violent acts of the past, his time in jail and how he had now reformed.
“I would not have let him anywhere near the kids if I thought he was now a bad person,” Mr Smith said.
‘He spoke to them in a matter of fact way and took his role very seriously. It was indicative of him that he held his buck’s night here [Bible study group].” Taousanis family has been keeping a bedside vigil at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital as has Ms Stellas.
The reverend has visited him several times and said that while still in a serious condition he was in good spirits and asking for prayers for his recovery.