A DAMNING note hidden by a Sydney woman just three months before she was killed has helped send her former restaurateur husband to jail for soliciting her murder.

Rita Caleo was so worried after her brother Dr Michael Chye’s shooting death — which has never been solved — that she gave her solicitor a sealed envelope which read: “To be opened only if my death is unnatural”.

Three months later, at 39-years-old, she was dead.

In the NSW Supreme Court this afternoon, Mark Caleo, now 55, was sentenced to 12 years jail with a non-parole period of nine years. He was convicted in April of soliciting the murder of his wife, who was stabbed 23 times, at the family’s Double Bay townhouse in August 1990.

In handing down Caleo’s sentence, Justice Robert Allan Hulme said the defendant was the mastermind of “a cold blooded plan to kill his wife”, which he ordered after she cut him out of her will.

Former Kings Cross bouncer Alani Afu, 51 — who carried out Mrs Caleo’s murder for at least $10,000 — also appeared in court today and was sentenced to 20 years jail with a non-parole period of 15 years.

“He carried out his master’s bidding with little or no hesitation,” Justice Hulme said.

Earlier this year, Caleo was acquitted of soliciting the murder of his wife’s brother, Dr Michael Chye, 39, who was shot in the head as he drove into his Woollahra home in October 1989. Dr Chye’s killer has never been charged.

Mrs Caleo's sister Angelina Chye previously told the court how she had not been able to attend her funeral because it was deemed unsafe for the surviving siblings to be there.

Instead, “I sat crying in my room, grieving,” Ms Chye said in her impact statement.

“Mark Caleo and Alan Afu have had the freedom to carry on with their normal everyday lives.

But for the last 30 years, the family had been living in pain, anger and helplessness.

“Now, we have a freedom,” Ms Chye said.


Caleo was out the night she was stabbed to death in the family’s Double Bay home, in Sydney’s ritzy eastern suburbs, on August 10, 1990. Ms Caleo had spent the night at a dinner party with friends before walking up the stairs to her townhouse after midnight. Afu, who was 23 at the time, slipped in through a balcony door which Ms Caleo’s husband had cunningly left unlocked for him earlier that day. The hitman stabbed Ms Caleo 23 times, leaving her to bleed to death on the bathroom floor. The couple’s two daughters were asleep in the bedroom next door during the frenzied attack. It was their nanny who found their mother unconscious in a pool of blood after hearing “faint whining” sounds.

Caleo told police his wife’s murder was a robbery gone wrong.

But what the former Sydney restaurateur didn’t know at the time was that Ms Caleo had left behind an incriminating note — one that predicted her death and implicated him directly.

“In the event that my death is unnatural, direct the investigation to my husband Mark Caleo …” the handwritten letter read.

“My brother’s death is also their doing.”

Her brother, Dr Michael Chye, 36, was fatally shot in the head in his Woollahra home in October the year before.

“(Mark) gets very desperate when he is squeezed financially like what I’m doing to him as a result of his affair … this is the absolute truth — please do not let Mark get away with this,” it continued.

Mrs Caleo left the note, dated May 15th, 1990, with her lawyer who produced it after the mother’s murder.

She also wrote her husband out of her will amid suspicions he was having an affair with her friend Janice Yap.

Rick Damelian, who sold the family a number of vehicles, was also named in Mrs Caleo’s letter but is not suspected of any involvement in her death or her brother’s death, nor is he facing any charges in relation to the matter. He has denied any involvement.

The Crown’s main witness — Caleo’s former employee, Anthony Stambolis — testified that his boss told him to offer $10,000 to find someone to kill his wife and to make it look like a robbery gone wrong.

When the couple first met, she was 35 and he was 22. They opened a chain of Italian restaurants — including one in Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building — and went on to become millionaires.