In the days after Vladislav Tolstykh, a 35-year-old father of four, was ambushed in 2009, Gadiyev, who has been in the US on a visa to perform in wrestling exhibitions, fled to his native Turkmenistan and then to Sydney.
He lived in Bondi Beach and Drummoyne, working with computers and falling in with some Eastern European criminal circles that were on the police radar, it’s understood.
However, he was able to convince the government that he was a persecuted asylum seeker from his central Asian home country.
McMahon tracked Gadiyev to Sydney after contacts in other agencies told him Gadiyev had passed through an airport in Malaysia. His name popped up in NSW Police databases as he had been stopped for minor matters.
NSW Detective Inspector David El-Badawi tailed Gadiyev extensively and followed him to a coffee shop in 2013 where the fugitive left a can of Red Bull on the table.
El-Badawi pinched the can; the DNA matched DNA from a ski mask and a sweater that attackers in Brooklyn were seen on CCTV wearing and discarding after the crime.
Gadiyev was arrested at Sydney Airport in 2014. At the time, McMahon said, he was in the process of applying for citizenship and legally changing his name.
A local court ordered him to be extradited but, due to his refugee status, it’s understood the federal government had to secure guarantees that Gadiyev would be sent back to Australia, not Turkmenistan, once he had served his time or was found not guilty.
Gadiyev also used several avenues to appeal extradition. The delays left Tolstykh’s widow, Rita, and her local senator, Chuck Schumer, furious and desperate.
“All I ask is to get peace for my kids and my mother-in-law, who lost her only son. I only want peace and justice,” she said at a 2016 press conference with Schumer.
McMahon, who travelled to Sydney last week to escort Gadiyev back, said he and Rita Tolstykh “were both giving up hope” that Australia would extradite him.
“It [was] very frustrating… until the [plane] door slammed closed, I wasn’t sure he was coming back with us… I had my phone in my hand and as soon as the doors closed, I hit the send button [on a message to Rita]. She was obviously thrilled.”
The Department of Home Affairs said it “does not comment on individual cases”.
Rachel Olding is a reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based in the United States.