Khanh Thanh Ly avoided the death penalty in Indonesia more than a decade ago when the infamous 'Bali Nine' were captured - but now the drug-ring "lieutenant" is facing a life sentence of a different kind.

Ly, 35, will be sentenced at the New South Wales Supreme Court next month for the murder of his girlfriend Miming Listiyani in Cabrita, in inner-west Sydney, in 2016.

He faces the possibility of life behind bars for the cruel murder of Listiyani, whose head he bashed against the pavement, according to police facts tendered at Burwood Local Court where he entered his guilty plea.

The killer has already served time in jail for his links with the Bali Nine. He worked closely with that drug syndicate and was good friends with Myuran Sukumaran, who was later executed alongside Andrew Chan.


Ly, who was codenamed "Buddha" by the group, was heavily involved in the Bali Nine ring, even accompanying members of the Nine on an aborted drug run to Asia. He was jailed for seven years in December 2007 after he pleaded guilty to conspiring to import heroin into Australia.

After his arrest, Ly broke ranks with the other conspirators and gave evidence against them - including old school-friend Sukumaran - who he said drew him into the heroin smuggling trade.

His sentencing hearing heard details of the role he played, from helping organise drug mules in Australia and driving them around the country. On one of those occasions, he collected Chan from Sydney airport after a drug run, for which he was paid $5000.

A trip to Bali in late 2004 to smuggle drugs into Australia was unsuccessful after the drugs were intercepted, however he was charged because he had already travelled there and agreed to import the heroin.

Miming Listiyani was found dead in shallow water at Cabarita Wharf. Photo / Facebook
Miming Listiyani was found dead in shallow water at Cabarita Wharf. Photo / Facebook

In total he flew to Bali on three occasions. Each time he gained in experience and seniority within the ring and therefore was given an enhanced role arranging for everything from mobile phones to money for the mules, reported The Australian.

By his own admission he was a general "dogsbody" for the ring.

Mules were told to wear baby clothes to hide their body shape, so that drugs could be strapped to their bodies. Ly himself once picked up Bali Nine member Renae Lawrence from the airport where she told him the drugs were cutting off her circulation.

In fact, his involvement was so close it involved him strapping bags of plain flour to the mules bodies as they rehearsed every part of the mission.

At least one of the runs was successful.

Prosecutors at his sentencing hearing said Ly himself was asked to carry the drugs during the mission when the Nine were finally caught, but he refused.

That was in December 2004, five months before the Bali Nine were arrested in Bali, creating worldwide headlines.

Instead he stayed behind in Australia and avoided capture, and potentially, death by firing squad.

He broke down and cried in court when the judge, Justice Debra Mullins, handed down his sentence and locked him away for a minimum four years. It was significantly less than what was originally sought by the Crown because of the major co-operation he gave federal police.

"I consider, on the material I have before me, that you have shown you are truly remorseful," Justice Mullins told him.

"It appears you had misguided loyalty to Sukumaran ... that allowed you to offend so significantly against our criminal law," reported The Brisbane Times.

Ly, who was once an accounting student from Lidcombe in Sydney's west, is the son of Chinese and Vietnamese refugees. At his sentencing hearing, his lawyer told the court she didn't think his family were going to abandon him, despite how hard it was seeing him face up to his crimes.

Those crimes now extend to the shocking murder of Listiyani on April 7 last year. Police facts obtained by The Daily Telegraph reveal how he slammed her head onto the hard concrete after the pair got involved in a heated argument.

Police found Ly standing over Listiyani's naked body. Witnesses earlier saw him dragging her body through Cabarita Wharf towards the river.

She died from major blunt force head trauma but there was also evidence she had been strangled, the facts obtained by The Daily Telegraph say.

The facts have not yet been agreed to. Ly is in custody and will be sentenced after the arraignment on April 7 - exactly a year after the murder.