A Melbourne man says an allegation that he murdered a friend whose body was found in a torched car will make him a target with bikies. Robert Musso, 37, has been charged with murdering Mernda man Thomas O’Connell and appeared before an out-of-sessions court hearing on Thursday evening.

Mr O’Connell’s badly burned body was found in a car just off Hume Freeway in Wandong in the early hours of February 5.

Firefighters found him dead in the front passenger seat after putting out the car fire.

Musso, also from Mernda, was charged with the 32-year-old’s murder just days after investigators said they might have a breakthrough in the case after police identified a car thought to be linked to the murder.

‘This person was a friend of mine,’ Musso told the hearing.

He left the hearing before it was finished after objecting to the media’s presence.

Musso said media coverage of the charge against him could put his life at risk because Mr O’Connell ‘was involved in motorcycle activity’ and ‘everybody would think that I’m involved in this crime’.

‘It could endanger my life if it got out that I could be allegedly involved in something like this,’ Musso said.

‘I haven’t committed this.’

He then declined to apply for bail with media present, and left the hearing. man  has been remanded into custody to appear before Melbourne Magistrates Court on Friday.