Vinzent Tarantino, 52, had denied murdering 12-year-old Quanne Diec, who disappeared on July 27, 1998, after leaving her Granville home to walk to the train station on her way to school.
Her body has never been found.
The NSW Supreme Court jury, which deliberated for more than a week after sitting through the seven-week trial, returned the not guilty verdict this morning.
Tarantino repeatedly nodded at the jury and bowed at them after their verdict was declared.
The Crown had alleged Tarantino took her from the street in a white van, drove to his father’s nearby home, strangled her and disposed of her body in bushland south of Sydney.
In 2016, Tarantino walked into a Sydney police station and confessed to abducting and killing Quanne before leading officers into bushland in an attempt to find her body.
The defence contended he made false admissions because he had received what he considered repeated threats from bikies, and feared for his life and the lives of his loved ones.
Tarantino was working at Sydney’s Black Market Cafe in late 1997 and saw the aftermath of the fatal shootings of three senior Bandidos bikies in the basement.
He told the NSW Supreme Court jury he wanted to get to a safe place after the repeated threats, having previously availed himself of “safe houses” through admission to psychiatric hospitals.
Last Tuesday morning, Justice Robert Beech-Jones discharged one juror, telling the remaining 11 members not to speculate about the reason. Later that day, they retired for deliberations.
More to come