Mount Lawley: Asbestos delays police search for remains of Nicola La Falce

Police searching for the remains of Nicola La Falce, who has been missing for almost 30 years, have been delayed after asbestos was discovered at the Perth property they are digging up.

Detectives, forensic officers and other police have been scouring the Barlee St home, in the affluent suburb of Mount Lawley, since Monday.

Concrete cutters and tree loppers were called in on Wednesday to clear the way to dig up the backyard, which includes corrugated iron and fruit trees.

But on Thursday, police told NCA NewsWire the discovery of asbestos had hindered their progress.

It is understood police will not be able to continue their probe until the asbestos is safely removed from the site.

A neighbour, who did not want to be identified, told NCA NewsWire they were shocked to see police turn up on the quiet street on Monday.

“This is a good area, a nice community. You don’t expect to see police swarming the street,” they said.

“I’ve lived in the Mount Lawley area for a long time. I am shocked.

“I hope they can find the man’s body so his family can get closure after all this time. It’s very sad.”

Police said the property had been searched previously, but not to this extent.

A nine-month cold case review led detectives to believe Mr La Falce’s body may be buried in the backyard.

The home belongs to Giuseppe Minniti, the father of Pasquale Minniti, who was central to a corruption scandal which led to police minister John D’Orazio losing his job in 2006.

There are reports Mr La Falce once dated Mr Minniti’s daughter and was seen visiting the property.

Mr La Falce, 37, was last seen at a pizza shop on Cambridge St in Wembley on the evening of January 12, 1994.

About 8.44pm, he received a phone call from someone police believe he knew and shortly after he left the shop in his blue Ford Courier tray top vehicle.

There are reports that call was made from Mr Minniti’s home phone.

At 2.37pm the following day, Ansett Airlines received a telephone booking in Mr La Falce’s name to fly to Adelaide on January 14.

The brickie’s vehicle was found in the long-term car park of the Perth Domestic Airport that day and the flight seat in his name was occupied – but police do not believe it was him.

Last week, police offered a $500,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of anyone responsible for Mr La Falce’s suspected homicide.

State Crime Assistant Commissioner Tony Longhorn said at the time that despite the years that had gone by, police remained committed to solving the case.

“He was a much loved father, brother and son, both to family here in Perth and Italy,” he said.

“We believe someone in our community knows what happened to him.”

Detective Inspector Darryl Cox said on Monday that since the reward was announced, three phone calls had been made to Crime Stoppers.

“One of those is of particular interest to the investigation team,” he said.

“There are further actions that may be undertaken and further search warrants may take place in the future.”

Mr La Falce’s emotional brother Antonio and sister-in-law Elise in Italy last week pleaded for anyone with information to contact police.

“He loved living life in his own lively way,” the brother said.

“He loved being the life of the party.

“We’ve had no information regarding his disappearance.

“We are asking anyone who may have any information or news of anything that happened that they please immediately report it to police.”

Officers are expected to remain at the Mount Lawley property for several more days.

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