Copy photo of Bondi woman Lana (Svetlana) Podgoyetsky & her husband Tony Kellisar (Kelly) on their wedding day, she went missing 16/11/97 after attending conference in Melbourne.  Kell/fam  Podg/fam  Victoria / Missing Person  NSW / Crime / Murder / Victim Picture: Supplied
Copy photo of Bondi woman Lana (Svetlana) Podgoyetsky & her husband Tony Kellisar (Kelly) on their wedding day, she went missing 16/11/97 after attending conference in Melbourne. Kell/fam Podg/fam Victoria / Missing Person NSW / Crime / Murder / Victim Picture: Supplied

How a killer husband dodged his brush with the law

THE road cop pulled mechanic Tony Kellisar over near Yass, booked him for speeding more than 30km/h over the 110km/h speed limit and sent him on his way.

All the while, the body of Kellisar's wife Svetlana Podgoyetsky sat in the car, where he'd strangled her some time earlier.

Having dodged a bullet, Kellisar continued on and drove to his radiator repair shop in the suburb of Wentworthville. It was a Sunday and no one was working.

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Tony Kellisar with wife Svetlana Podgoyetsky, who he murdered in 1997.
Tony Kellisar with wife Svetlana Podgoyetsky, who he murdered in 1997.

Knowing a bit about hydrochloric acid after having worked with it at the repair shop, Kellisar played disposalist. He contorted Svetlana's body into a wheelie bin and drowned it in the acid.

He later cried crocodile tears over his wife's vanishing, and feigned grief by collapsing at work.

After being grilled by homicide detectives, he slept next to his wife's remains as the acid did its work in the wheelie bin behind the repair shop.

"I was talking to her all night until early in the morning," he would tell police.

"I wanted to be close to my wife. That's why I came back every night ... I was there asking for forgiveness."

It did not take detectives long to locate what was left of Svetlana's body.

The acid had dissolved the top half of her body.

Kellisar confessed, claiming he killed his wife accidentally.

'She didn't see bad things in people'

An Iranian-born former soldier turned political refugee, Kellisar was relatively new in Australia when he met USSR-born Svetlana Podgoyetsky, a free-thinking, fun-loving young divorced mother who worked as a travel agent.

The two met at a nightspot in Sydney's Darling Harbour and a romance quickly blossomed.

After their marriage in 1996, the couple who came from very different backgrounds began to bicker and fight.

They separated for short periods only to reconcile.

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Kellisar and Podgoyetsky on their wedding day. Picture: Angelo Soulas
Kellisar and Podgoyetsky on their wedding day. Picture: Angelo Soulas

 

According to one of Kellisar's friends, Svetlana would often threaten to sleep with other men when they argued, and kept a strict timetable of his movements.

One of her friends told police Kellisar had a "typical male Muslim" expectation of women and was strictly overbearing, as well as tight with money.

Svetlana was unhappy and wanted to leave him, the friend said in a police statement.

A teenager who babysat for the couple told New South Wales police Kellisar made sexual advances towards her by touching her breasts, licking her ears and trying to take her pants off.

The 15-year-old girl also told police that Kellisar told her marrying Svetlana had been a mistake.

He asked Svetlana's father, Peter, about the division of money and assets upon divorce.

Mr Podgoyetsky told him: "You have money, you have divide. You have property, you have divide. You have everything you got together, you have to divide."

Svetlana's family and friends voiced their concerns for her safety.

"She didn't see bad things in people," Peter Podgoyetsky said in a statement.

 

Kellisar and Podgoyetsky on their wedding day. Picture: Supplied
Kellisar and Podgoyetsky on their wedding day. Picture: Supplied

 

 

The night Tony became a killer

In November 1997, Svetlana travelled to Melbourne for a three-day work conference at Crown Towers.

A jealous Kellisar rang her several times to check up on her.

"Every night they were going out and she was drinking," he would later say.

Enraged, Kellisar hired a car and - while popping amphetamine-based pills to keep him awake - drove from Sydney to Melbourne at speeds of up to 190km/h on the evening of Saturday, November 15.

"This was an extraordinary beginning to what, on your version, was going to be a very brief romantic interlude with your wife," Victorian Supreme Court judge Justice Frank Vincent would say.

Kellisar arrived at Crown Towers about 1.30am, rang Svetlana in her room and the two went for a drive to find a nightclub.

 

Police and fire officers searching Wentworth Radiators after discovering Podgoyetsky in acidbath in a wheelie bin.
Police and fire officers searching Wentworth Radiators after discovering Podgoyetsky in acidbath in a wheelie bin.

 

According to Kellisar's evidence, they argued over a bracelet and his wife backhanded him and called him a "mother---er".

"I got angry and I start to boil," Kellisar told Victorian homicide detectives.

"I lost it. I was angry."

Kellisar strangled Svetlana in the car.

She lost all muscle control, and he vomited in the vehicle.

"There was nothing," he said at his own trial.

"She was gone. She was sitting with her anger, her eyes wide open. She was looking at me, telling me, 'You idiot. You killed me.' I was kissing her. I was hugging her and she was gone.

"I lie down next to her for three hours. In the morning … daylight."

With Svetlana either propped up in the front passenger seat, lying along the back seat or even possibly jammed in the boot, Kellisar sped back to New South Wales.

He said he held her dead hand while talking to her all the way, although prosecutor Graeme Hicks conceded at trial: "Where the deceased was at that stage, the Crown can't say."

'We will never get over it'

He pleaded guilty to manslaughter but a Victorian Supreme Court jury found him guilty of murder.

Kellisar was sentenced to 22 years' jail with a non-parole period of 18 years.

"I wonder what thoughts pass through your mind in the course of the more than seven hours which were occupied in your journey to Melbourne," Justice Frank Vincent said.

"You are highly unlikely to have been troubled by conscience or remorse as there is, in more assessment, nothing which even remotely suggests that you experience any such emotions at any later stage.

"Your treatment of the body ... belies the presence of any sense of respect for her (Svetlana) or regret for what had occurred."

 

Tony Kellisar is escorted into during his murder trial. Picture: Simon Dallinger
Tony Kellisar is escorted into during his murder trial. Picture: Simon Dallinger

 

Outside court, Svetlana's family were still reeling from the horrendous crime.

"There's no excuse and no redeeming features in what he did - putting our family member in a vat of acid, destroying the body, allowing us to bury two legs," Svetlana's brother-in-law, Andrew Katz, said after the verdict.

"It is so devastating. We will never get over it."

Kellisar abandoned an appeal against the conviction, and was refused leave to appeal against his lengthy sentence.

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The judges told him he was lucky to have received a minimum term.

"I'm going to hell," Kellisar yelled at the hearing.

"And you three judges are going to hell, too."

Svetlana’s family and friends had voiced concerns about her safety. Picture: Simon Metcalfe
Svetlana’s family and friends had voiced concerns about her safety. Picture: Simon Metcalfe
Vlad Podgoetsky, the brother of Svetlana Podgoetsky, outside the Supreme Court after Kellisar was sentenced.
Vlad Podgoetsky, the brother of Svetlana Podgoetsky, outside the Supreme Court after Kellisar was sentenced.