The scene on Bank Street, South Melbourne, where police shot dead Wayne Joannou in 2005.

The scene on Bank Street, South Melbourne, where police shot dead Wayne Joannou in 2005. Photo: Joe Castro

When the demons in Wayne Joannou's mind finally escaped, the endgame was always going to be ugly.

Whether his pathological nature was fuelled by prodigious abuse of heroin, cannabis and amphetamines, or whether he used those drugs in a failed attempt to control his diagnosed depression, paranoia and insomnia, will never be known.

After 10 years of violence he became a killer, then for 11 days Australia's most wanted man until it ended when he was shot dead by police in South Melbourne.

Evidence, like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder and this case managed to draw conflicting conclusions. To some, the police embarked on a half-cocked operation with their guns fully cocked, while to others they stopped an armed offender before he could kill again.

Even the worst in society have rights and Joannou's death was meticulously examined in a way his victim's could not be. For the man he murdered in a St Albans flat has become almost a postscript to the Joannou case as questions were asked as to whether the fugitive could have been taken alive.

The coronial inquest raised more questions than answers and left police involved smarting at suggestions there should have been an alternative outcome to that final, fatal confrontation.

The inquiry was marred by claims of judicial bias, a flawed police investigation, disputed evidence, a long adjournment and the possibility four members of the elite Special Operations Group would face criminal charges.

A coroner found police could have done more to avoid the final confrontation and criticised the investigation of the death. Those involved remain gobsmacked at the findings.

The then head of the SOG, retired inspector John Noonan, says they were chasing the most dangerous man in Victoria, who was certain to kill again if not stopped. ''They [the four police who fired shots] should have been given medals, not criticism.''

What is beyond dispute is there is no place for cowboys in modern policing. ''Wanted dead or alive'' went out when Wyatt Earp left Tombstone, Arizona, and gave up chewing tobacco.

Once police could shoot an offender trying to escape. Years ago a policeman who would later achieve high rank fired his pistol at a fleeing car thief. When the thief was taken back to the South Melbourne station he complained of a pain in the shoulder. A quick examination showed the slug poking out from the fresh wound and rather than take him to hospital a detective removed it with tweezers, covered it with a Band-Aid and advised the wounded offender to toughen up.

Police today have no more legal rights to take a life than anyone else and can only do so defending their own lives or those of others.

The attempt to arrest Joannou for murder was never going to be left to general police or even homicide detectives - the killer was far too dangerous for that. It was always going to be a matter for the SOG.

The ''Sons of God'' are the anti-terrorist police called in to deal with high-risk sieges and raids. Major gangsters don't mind being arrested by the SOG as the unit is so highly trained at analysing risks and controlling the environment there is less chance of an avoidable shooting.

But what if the offender is determined to commit suicide by cop?

From the age of 16, Joannou was violent and uncontrollable, with a list of convictions that included assault, assault by kicking and assault with a weapon.

Increasingly erratic, he fired a shotgun into the floor of his stepmother's house and once stuck a gun in the stomach of a woman who he claimed had stolen a gold bracelet.

Just after midday on February 2, 2005, he walked into a flat in St Albans Road, St Albans, and without a word of explanation shot criminal associate Brian Bottomley, 32, in the neck in front of two witnesses. Perhaps it is not so much the crime as the aftermath that shows Joannou's mindset.

Forcing the witnesses to act as assistants, he bought an angle grinder, circular saw, plastic bags and a tub before returning to the flat where he dismembered the body in the bath.

After stuffing the remains in the boot of a red Toyota Celica, he drove along the Midland Highway, finally dumping the body in a lake or river between Bendigo and Echuca.

It has never been recovered.

Five days later Bottomley's mother reported him missing and at 7.08pm on February 7 the homicide squad was notified. Just 11 days later Joannou would be cut down, in not so much a hail as a blizzard of bullets, in a South Melbourne street, while he was preparing to smoke heroin.

It took only one day for police to identify Joannou, 26, as the killer, that he was armed and showed a propensity to resist arrest. A superintendent authorised the use of the SOG for the arrest phase, codenamed Motto.

When police made inquiries with a relative she feigned ignorance then quickly texted the suspect with a one-word warning - ''Police'' - destroying any chance of a surprise arrest.

Now on the run, the career criminal armed himself with a sawn-off shotgun, began to use anti-surveillance tactics and moved to a new hideout every day.

When police found where he was staying, the SOG would explore two possible arrest strategies - a forced entry raid or a cordon and call - where the house is surrounded and the suspect told to surrender in the face of overwhelming odds.

But by the time they were ready, Joannou was gone, although he knew time was running out.

In one safe house he sat clutching his shotgun and mumbling, ''They are going to shoot me.''

One witness said, ''He had the gun pointed sort of at the blinds and looking out the window all the time and he's thinking that everyone's a police officer and he said, 'They're not going to take me alive'.''

He told another, ''I know they are watching me, I have solids [shotgun shells] and I'm not going quietly.''

He farewelled his brothers, saying, ''Goodbye, I will see you in heaven.''

Finally police confirmed he was in a house in Ballarat Road, Deer Park, and moved into arrest phase - until Joannou decided to leave. The arrest team, travelling in five vehicles, followed at a discreet distance guided by surveillance police.

Just after 7pm on February 18, Joannou, in a green Camry with two other heavy drug users, pulled up in an angle park in Bank Street, South Melbourne.

As they prepared heroin to smoke they were smashed from behind by an SOG four-wheel-drive as armed members swarmed the car, screaming to the occupants to freeze.

Police told the coroner that when they saw Joannou raise the shotgun in the back seat they opened fire, blasting out 18 shots. He was dead before the gun smoke cleared.

Clearly coroner Jane Hendtlass was so concerned she adjourned the hearing to ask the Office of Public Prosecutions to examine whether charges should be laid against the four shooters.

Eleven months later the OPP found there was no evidence to justify prosecutions and the inquest continued.

After a failed submission that Dr Hendtlass should disqualify herself from the hearing, the four police gave evidence they fired only because the suspect appeared ready to shoot them.

The coroner suggested it was possible the suspect moved the shotgun involuntarily when the car was rammed and might not have intended to shoot.

''I do not accept that the evidence clearly establishes that Mr Joannou threatened police with a shotgun,'' Dr Hendtlass concluded in a finding released on New Year's Eve 2013 - eight years after the death.

Serving police who investigated the Bottomley murder and were involved in the manhunt for Joannou remain filthy at the criticism but are gagged from making public comment.

Not so retired inspector Noonan, who can speak his mind. ''He was an armed offender who had committed cold-blooded murder and we arrested him at the first opportunity. The fact no innocent people were injured was quite remarkable,'' Mr Noonan said.

''We had no other options and made a split-second decision. If we had let him go and lost him in traffic he could have killed someone else.

''There were suggestions we should have used a tranquilliser gun or allowed him to fire first, which is nonsense. I certainly have no regrets at the outcome.''