Australia

'We'll hunt you down': Search for gunman intensifies after Sydney lawyer murder

Detectives investigating the shooting murder of a prominent local lawyer in Sydney's southwest will delve into his list of criminal clients for answers to the killer's identity.

Sixty-five-year-old Vietnamese criminal lawyer Ho Ledinh was shot three times through the back at point-blank range outside Happy Cup cafe at Bankstown City Plaza on Tuesday afternoon in front of horrified witnesses.

Homicide squad commander Detective Superintendent Scott Cook says the investigation is in its early stages but officers will look into Mr Ledinh's clients.

He had a clear message to the shooter, saying: "We will hunt you down."

File image of Ho Ledinh from 2013
File image of Ho Ledinh from 2013
AAP

"He was a criminal solicitor, in the sense that that was his business to practice," he told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday.

"He has a lot of clients who are engaged in organised crime and other offences so that is absolutely a line of inquiry in terms of his business."

The attacker was wearing a dark-coloured cap, dark sunglasses, a high-visibility vest, dark-coloured pants and shoes, grey gloves and a raincoat that was either dark green or black.

'The community's deeply in shock': NSW Vietnemese Community President
'The community's deeply in shock': NSW Vietnemese Community President

Det Supt Cook said officers would continue canvassing the area on Wednesday and were searching for a man of Pacific Islander appearance.

He was last seen running down Stuart Lane at Bankstown and remains on the run.

"This was deliberate, this was direct, this was obviously targeted and planned," he said.

"He's a danger to the community.

"He's clearly prepared to use a firearm to kill someone and he needs to be locked up."

Parts of the busy shopping strip remained cordoned off on Wednesday morning.

NSW Police and Forensic Services officers attend the scene of a shooting at a cafe at Bankstown City Plaza, in Bankstown, Tuesday, January 23, 2018 (AAP)
NSW Police and Forensic Services officers attend the scene of a shooting at a cafe at Bankstown City Plaza, in Bankstown, Tuesday, January 23, 2018 (AAP)
AAP

Police have urged anyone with video footage - including CCTV, shop-front, dash cam or mobile phone material - to come forward.

Det Supt Cook also thanked those who helped Mr Ledinh in the moments after the shooting.

"There was a number of people who rendered first aid to him and that was very admirable and I have to say that the co-operation from the community has been excellent," he said.

The Homicide Squad has established Strike Force Eugene to investigate the shooting.

Police aren't aware of any threats received prior to the shooting and there was no concern about reprisal attacks, Det Supt Cook added.

He urged anyone with knowledge of the gunman's whereabouts to contact police but not to approach him.

Gunshots and panic

One shopkeeper from the same street as the Happy Cup café described Tuesday's events to SBS News.

"I was there in my store, serving a customer at that time. Suddenly, there was this loud noise which sounded like a gunshot or what might be a firework," the shopkeeper said.

"There was a big crowd outside and we had no clue what happened. People started screaming out loud, then I knew that somebody was shot."

Another nearby shopkeeper said there were three distinct gunshots followed by immediate panic.

"Everyone was so scared of moving … No one dared to go out to check what was going on," the shopkeeper said.

"(Afterwards) I just saw a body lying on the floor and the paramedics were trying to save him."

"A very caring person"

President of the Vietnamese Community in Australia NSW Chapter Paul Huy Nguyen told SBS News that "the community is deeply in shock and we're not sure how we can come to terms with this."

"It was a moment of horror," Mr Nguyen said.

He said that Mr Ledinh was "very well-known in the community" due to his reputation in criminal law and his columns about legal matters in a local Vietnamese newspaper.

"He was very popular among his friends … (He was) a very caring person, he looked after his family, he was a person of good repute."

"We're just trying to come to terms with how it happened and we hope that his family will have the strength to overcome this tragedy."

Hours before the shooting, Mr Ledinh, who is believed to have several younger as well as adult children, was having coffee with his friend of 20 years, Van Nguyen.

Mr Nguyen said he was shocked to receive a phone call later in the day telling him his friend had been shot dead.

"For me he was perfect, he was a very good man and helped people a lot with their families," he told NewsCorp Australia.

Mr Ledinh was one of the solicitors who represented Philip Nguyen, the man jailed over the killing of Sydney police constable Bill Crews in 2010.