Jim Taousanis, the man gunned down in Tempe the morning before his wedding day on Sunday, was a sincere Christian who was an inspiration to troubled teenagers, a Dulwich Hill minister said this week.
Holy Trinity Anglican Church Reverend Dave Smith, who runs bible study and kickboxing classes for young people, said media reports the once-kailed Taousanis was a vicious underworld figure were outrageous.
‘Jim is one of the nicest blokes I’ve got the privilege to call my friend,” he said. “He’s a member of the church, he works with kids, he’s done some bad stuff in the past but that was 10 years ago. “Some of the media reports have been outrageous. He’s one of the gentlest guys I know.’’
Mr Smith met the 37-year-old former Army reserve commando through a mutual interest in martial arts shortly after Taousanis was released from prison for shooting the now-jailed detective Craig McDonald during a 1991 armed robbery of the Hilton Hotel. Taousanis testified during the Police Royal Commission against Arthur “Neddy” Smith and the late Lenny McPherson.
“I don’t doubt in the past he was a bad man,” Mr Smith said. “He has shared very openly what happened; he had a significant religious experience in prison.
‘I didn’t know him before but he has seemed to have turned around completely. “When I met him he was a sincere Christian guy who wanted to get involved in the cornmunity.”
Mr Smith feared young people would be steered away from Taousanis after reading media reports.
“He was working at Dulwich Hill on a voluntary basis,” he said.
“He did some training but mostly he would come to church, talk to kids and afterwards take them to lunch. The kids respected him.
“Most of the guys who come here are skirting the edge of the prison system through drug habits, often involved in petty crime, minor assaults, break and enters
“Jim had the respect here. He was one of our greatest assets because he had the intention of setting them straight.”
Newtown police Inspector Luke Freudenstein said he could not say whether Taousanis was on the “straight and narrow”.
“I spoke to David Smith as well and I actually fought in a charity fundraiser for the church group. He told me Taousanis was there and certainly anyone who was there was there to help out,” he said.
Taousanis has been taken off the critical list.