Hoddle Street massacre

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Hoddle Street massacre
Location Clifton Hill, Victoria, Australia
Coordinates 37°47′24″S 144°59′42″E / 37.79000°S 144.99500°E / -37.79000; 144.99500Coordinates: 37°47′24″S 144°59′42″E / 37.79000°S 144.99500°E / -37.79000; 144.99500
Date 9 August 1987
9:29 pm — 10:14 pm (UTC+10)
Target Civilians, police and passing-by cars in Hoddle Street
Attack type
Mass murder, massacre
Weapons
Deaths 7
Non-fatal injuries
19
Perpetrator Julian Knight
Motive Unknown

The Hoddle Street massacre was a mass shooting that occurred on the evening of Sunday, 9 August 1987, in Hoddle Street, Clifton Hill, a suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, in Australia.[1]

The shootings resulted in the deaths of seven people, and serious injury to 19 others.[2] After a police chase lasting more than 30 minutes, 19-year-old former Australian Army officer cadet Julian Knight was caught in nearby Fitzroy North and arrested for the shootings. Knight was later sentenced to seven consecutive terms of life imprisonment with a non-parole period of 27 years for one of the bloodiest massacres in Australian history.[3] As Knight was between 18 and 21, he was classed as a young adult offender under Victorian law and also, because at the time Victoria did not have life without parole, he was given the 27-year minimum.[4]

Knight currently resides in the maximum security Port Phillip Prison in Truganina, Victoria near Melbourne and is eligible for parole in 2014; however, the Victorian government has stated that it is "unlikely" Knight will ever be released.[5]

Background[edit]

Main article: Julian Knight

Knight's father was involved in the military and as such, Knight moved around a lot as a child. His lifelong dream was to defend Australia in a war. Knight entered the Royal Military College, Duntroon in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory on 13 January 1987, at the age of 18. Whilst a military career had long been a dream, he performed poorly at his studies and gained good results only in weapons expertise exercises. Knight did not like authority and he hated the social hierarchy of the army which allowed people only a few months older than him to boss him around as they were second year and he was first. One night, Julian Knight entered a bar looking for a fight. With him he carried a knife which he used to stab one of the second years. Due to this, Knight was discharged and sent back to Melbourne only 16 days prior to the day of the massacre.Upon returning to Melbourne, Knight found out that his longtime girlfriend would no longer see him and his mother, whom he had always relied on, had turned his childhood bedroom into an extra living room. Furthermore, Knight was broke. He had no job to earn a decent wage and consequently, looked for other means. He decided to sell his car. On his way his car broke down.

9 August 1987[edit]

The events of this day were pieced together after investigation by police, along with the help of Knight himself.[6]

Prior events[edit]

At 11.30am on Sunday 9 August 1987, Julian Knight, a discharged army cadet, woke up in his temporary bedroom in the front room of his mother’s house at number 6 Ramsden Street, Clifton Hill.

Between 1.10pm and 4.10pm on Sunday 9 August 1987, Knight attended a belated birthday party for his mother at his grandmother’s house in the Melbourne suburb of Hawthorn. Whilst at the party Knight consumed two cans of full-strength beer. He left the party in his own car and drove his younger sister home before driving aimlessly around the Clifton Hill area.

At about 4.50pm Knight went to see an old girlfriend in Clifton Hill in order to give her a magazine. He only stayed at her flat for about five minutes then he continued to drive aimlessly around the area. Minutes later the gearbox of his car – his only asset – jammed and stuck in second gear. He limped the car home, where he changed clothes and drank another can of beer before walking angrily around to the nearby Royal Hotel, his local pub, at around 5.30pm.

None of Knight’s friends were at the Royal Hotel so he drank alone in the public bar from around 5.32pm to about 8.55pm. At around 8.50pm Knight began to feel the effects of the beer he’d been drinking and he had a "vision" of soldiers being ambushed. He felt as if it was a "call to arms" and at about 8.55pm he rushed from the hotel and ran back to his mother’s house.

Preparation[edit]

Arriving back at his mother’s house minutes later, he spoke briefly to his sister when she met him in the hallway outside the front room. He then waited until his sister returned to the rear of the house to watch a movie on TV with their mother, before he ventured upstairs to his mother’s bedroom.

Stored under her bed were his legally owned and licenced weapons: a .177 calibre Daisy BB air rifle, a .177 calibre Chinese air rifle, a .177 calibre Crosman model 766 air rifle, a .22 calibre Ruger model 10/22 semi-automatic rifle, an 12-gauge 8-shot Mossberg pump-action shotgun, and a 7.62mm calibre M14 semi-automatic military rifle.

Knight retrieved the Ruger rifle, the Mossberg shotgun and the M14 rifle from underneath the bed, then he took the Ruger and the Mossberg back downstairs to the front room. He then returned to his mother’s room and collected the M14, and a steel ammunition box and a leather shotgun cartridge belt from his mother’s wardrobe, before returning to the front room to load the three firearms.

After loading the three firearms and stuffing his pockets with ammunition, including a "suicide" 7.62mm round which he placed in the front right hand pocket of his jeans, he placed a black combat knife down the back of his jeans. He then slung the M14 over his back and picked up the Mossberg and the Ruger in his right and left hands respectively. Immediately afterwards, at around 9.29pm, he opened the front door of the house and ran out into Ramsden Street.

After running west along Ramsden Street and crossing the nearby railway line, Knight reached the eastern side of the main four-lane arterial road known as Hoddle Street. At 9.30pm, from the nature strip on the east side of the road, Knight commenced firing on passing cars with the Ruger rifle.

Massacre begins[edit]

Hoddle Street, where a majority of the shootings took place.

The first car that Knight opened fire on contained a married couple, Con and Rita Vitkos. Rita received minor wounds and her husband drove on before stopping at a Mobil service station about 150 metres further south down Hoddle Street.

Following the Vitkos’s was a car containing Michael Anthony and Trevor Smeelie, and a car driven by Gregory Elliott. A bullet struck Elliott's vehicle, narrowly missing his head. Both of these cars were damaged but none of the occupants was wounded. Following Elliott’s car was a car driven by Alan Jury and containing Monica Vitelli and Dannielle Mina. Jury and Vitelli were both wounded and they joined the others at the Mobil service station.

Knight fired rapid bursts at each car, and he reloaded with spare 10-round Ruger magazines as he moved north along the nature-strip towards the nearby Clifton Hill railway station. He ensured that he fired on every south and north-bound vehicle as it passed him, The next car he fired on contained Raewyn Crighton, Bernd Micheel and Dianne Arnold, who all escaped injury.

The following car was driven by Sand Wang, who received minor wounds. The next car was driven by Diane Fitzpatrick, who received a serious back wound. The next three cars to be shot at contained Michael Pearce and Jacqueline Langosch, Issac Lohman, and Reginald Dutton and Dana Sabolcki respectively, and they were all fortunate to escape injury.

At around 9.35pm Knight ran out of ammunition for the Ruger, so he dropped it on the nature-strip and commenced firing with the Mossberg shotgun. The loud blasts of the shotgun alerted local residents to the shooting and the first calls were made to the Victoria Police’s emergency communications centre, D24.

The first car to be fired at with the shotgun contained Sharyn Maunder, who did not receive any wound and who did not realize the front of her car had been hit. The next car to be hit was driven by Vesna Markovska, who received minor wounds, followed by a car driven by her fiance, Zoran Trajceski, who also received minor wounds. Both Markovska and Trajceski parked their cars by the side of the road and got out to take cover. As they did so a car driven by Georgina "Gina" Papaioannou stopped on the opposite side of the street. Knight immediately fired on the car and Gina was slightly wounded. Soon afterwards a car driven by Jayne Morris, and also containing Kay Edwards and Cecily Caulis, drove south through the ambush zone.

Police arrival[edit]

Further south down Hoddle Street they flagged down a police divisional van containing Constable Glen Nichols and Constable Belinda Bourchier, and informed them about the shootings. Nichols and Bourchier immediately drove to the scene with their lights and siren on as they radioed D24. Soon after 9.38pm they reached the intersection of Hoddle Street and Ramsden Street and they were shot at by Knight.

Knight continued to change position as he fired at a procession of four single occupant cars which, in chronological order, were driven by Mathew Morrow, Edward McShortall, Trevor Robinson and Keith Wing Shing. McShortall received minor wounds but Wing Shing, who stopped his car opposite Knight, received serious jaw and throat wounds.

Knight continued to reload and change position as he continued to fire at the passing cars. The next car Knight fired at was a car containing Kevin Skinner, his wife Tracey and their son Adam. Tracey was killed instantly by a blast to the face and Adam, who was on her lap below the window sill, received minor glass wounds.

Following this, a local resident, Peter Curmi, and a friend of his, John Muscat, approached the scene from the western side of the street. Knight fired one shot at them which fatally wounded Muscat in the head and chest, and which seriously wounded Curmi. Immediately after this the attendant at the nearby swimming pool, Steve Wight, ran to their aid and was seriously wounded by Knight’s final shotgun blast.

It was now 9.39pm and numerous police units were rushing to the scene. Knight dropped the empty Mossberg shotgun on the ground and took up a prone firing position with his M14 rifle. At this point Vesna Markovska broke cover from behind her car and made for the footpath on the eastern side of Hoddle Street. As she stepped onto the footpath she was spotted by Knight who fired a shot which seriously wounded her. When she fell back onto the roadway Knight fired two further shots which killed her.

It was now 9.40pm and D24 notified the Police Air Wing that one of their Aerospatiale Dauphin police helicopters was needed to assist the police at the scene. Moments later, in a break in the firing, one of the police officers on the western side of Hoddle Street fired a shot at Knight, which missed him by only a couple of metres.

Immediately following this shot Robert Mitchell, who had driven through the ambush zone unscathed and parked his car further down Hoddle Street, ran up the eastern side of the street in an attempt to render assistance to the fallen Markovska. As he reached her and came to a halt, Knight quickly fired a shot at him which hit him in the right side of the head and killed him instantly.

At 9.41pm, as three police units took up positions in Mayors Park on the western side of Hoddle Street and other police units took up positions in the surrounding area, Knight opened fire on a car driven by Jacqueline Turner and on Gina Papaioannou as she walked from her car to help Markovska and Mitchell. Turner’s car was not hit but Papaioannou was fatally wounded in the left side as she reached Markovska.

Following this, Knight fired on a car driven by John Finn who received minor wounds. The next car Knight shot at was driven by Andrew Hack who was seriously wounded in the left side. Following Hack was a car driven by Dusan Flajnik which Knight fired at. Flajnik was hit in the left side and bled to death in his car.

At 9.43pm Constable Bourchier requested another ambulance from D24 and nominated the Mobil service station as a safe rendezvous point for ambulances as two more police units arrived there.

The next car to be shot at contained Michael Smith and Jacqueline Megens. Smith received minor wounds while Megens was seriously wounded in the shoulder. As they were fired upon the first two ambulances arrived at the scene; one at the Mobil service station and one at Mayors Park.

It was now 9.44pm and the next car to be shot at was driven by Steven Mihailidis who escaped unscathed. Immediately afterwards Knight fired at the rider of a motorcycle, Kenneth "Shane" Stanton, who was hit in the left leg and fell onto the roadway. As he lay there Knight shot him a further two times and he eventually died.

Soon afterwards, at 9.45pm, a car containing Dimitrios Collyvas, Renata Coldebella, Danny Coldebella and Danny De Luca, followed Staton down Hoddle Street. Knight, who was by this time beside the southern end of the Clifton Hill railway station buildings, fired a shot at the front of the car.

The car stopped and as it reversed back up the street Knight fired two more shots at into it before it crashed into a police car, driven by Constable Dominic Cannizzaro, which had just arrived at the scene.

The first shot that Knight had fired into the car had slightly wounded Renata, and the second shot he fired had seriously wounded Danny Coldebella. As Collyvas’s car was reversing a motorcycle being ridden by Wayne Timms and Jayne Timbury, followed by a car containing Alexandra Stamatopoulos, Steven Stamatopoulos, Irene Fountis, Vicki Fountis and Panagioti Fountis, drove into the ambush zone and stopped opposite Collyvas’s car.

At this point Knight, who was surrounded by at least 40 armed police officers, decided to withdraw from the area and began "hunting" police officers. It was just after 9.45pm and he’d expended 40 rounds of .22 calibre bullets, 25 rounds of 12-gauge Buckshot and 32 rounds of 7.62mm calibre bullets in the preceding 15 minutes. Five people lay dead, two were fatally wounded and a further 17 had been wounded. In addition to the expended ammunition, Knight had lost his "suicide" bullet and another 7.62mm bullet as he had moved up the nature-strip. Knight had also lost his knife on the nature-strip. He now retained only his M14 rifle and 17 rounds of ammunition.

Police chase[edit]

Following his decision to withdraw, Knight turned around and climbed onto the western platform of the Clifton Hill railway station. He ran north along the platform and then continued moving north beside the railway line. He reached a fork in the tracks at around 9.46pm and decided to follow the left fork.

He spotted a police car in the northern end of Hoddle Street and fired three shots at it. The police car contained Sergeant Graham Larchin and Senior Constable Betty Roberts, who were not injured by the gunfire but who abandoned the car after Knight ceased firing.

After firing at Larchin and Roberts’s police car Knight moved into a nearby cluster of trees, sat down and smoked a cigarette. Minutes later, at 9.48pm, Police Helicopter VH-PVA – callsign "Air 495" – arrived over the Clifton Hill area and began searching for Knight with a powerful Nitesun searchlight. A minute later D24 ordered the Victoria Police’s elite Special Operations Group (SOG) to attend the scene.

Knight finished his cigarette and continued moving in a north-west direction towards Northcote. He crossed over the Merri Creek, which bordered Clifton Hill and Northcote, and took up a position at the end of a road bridge which spanned the creek. Just before 10pm he fired a shot at a passing police officer, Constable Colin Chambers, who was slightly wounded in the right side.

After shooting Chambers, Knight moved back across Merri Creek into the adjoining suburb of Fitzroy North. At this point he was chased by Police Helicopter "Air 495" and he ran into a line of trees beside the railway line. He tried to avoid the searchlight for a few minutes but then, at 10.05pm, he broke cover onto the railway line, knelt down and fired three shots at the helicopter as it circled over him.

The Police Helicopter, an Aerospatiale Dauphin containing Senior Constable Trevor Wilson, Senior Constable Daryl Jones, Constable Keith Stewart and Ambulance Officer Alan Scott, was hit by the first shot which pierced it right main fuel tank and forced it to land on a nearby sports field.

McKean Street and arrest[edit]

Knight continued on into Fitzroy North and headed down McKean Street in an attempt to reach his ex-girlfriend’s house. It was now 10.13pm and Knight was spotted by two police officers, Constable John Delahunty and Constable Ralph Lockman, who gave chase in their police car, callsign "Fitzroy 213".

As they bore down on him Knight ducked into a laneway, turned around and fired his last ten rounds at the police car as it stopped in the middle of the road facing the laneway. Constable Delahunty, who was driving the police car, received minor shrapnel wounds to the face and left hand as he and Lockman tumbled out of the car with their revolvers drawn.

The police car’s headlights were on high beam facing the entrance to the laneway, which was also lit up by a nearby street light. As Delahunty and Lockman took up positions behind their police car and called upon Knight to surrender, Knight squatted down beside a low brick wall and searched his pockets vainly for his "suicide" bullet.

When he realised that he had lost it he leaned out into the headlight beams and dropped the empty M14 on the ground. He then slowly stood up with his hands in the air. When he was fully upright Constable Delahunty stepped out from behind the rear of the police car and fired a shot at him.

Knight was not hit but he ducked back down behind the low brick wall. As Delahunty and Lockman again called on him to surrender he yelled back "Don’t shoot! I’m coming out!" He again rose up with his hands in the air before walking out onto the street where he was arrested by Delahunty and Lockman.

Numerous other police officers arrived at the arrest scene, and after a short, initially violent, interrogation, Knight was driven in an unmarked police car to the St Kilda Road Police Complex by Detective Senior Constable Richard McIntosh, Detective Senior Constable Kim Cox and Constable Robert Kovacs.

At the St Kilda Road Police Complex Knight was interrogated extensively by McIntosh and Cox, briefly by the then head of the Homicide Squad, Detective Chief Inspector Brendon Cole, then extensively by Homicide Squad detectives Detective Senior Sergeant Brian McCarthy and Detective Senior Constable Graham Kent.

Knight also took part in a night-time crime re-enactment and a daytime crime re-enactment, both of which were videoed, and he was interrogated until he was eventually charged with the murder of John Muscat at 12.20pm on Monday 10 August 1987.

Timeline of events[edit]

Below is a timeline of events which occurred on 9 August 1987 during the crime.

  • 9.29pm - Having consumed around ten pots of beer at a local pub, Knight leaves his mother's house armed with
  • Positions himself on raised platform behind billboard at corner of Ramsden and Hoddle streets (streetview/map), Clifton Hill
"When police arrived, it was still very hard to see where Knight was firing from, and over the next two to three hours he continued to wound and kill passers-by,"[7]
  • 9.30pm - Knight fires at passersby using the Ruger rifle with Scope
  • 9.35pm - Knight fires at passersby using the Mossberg shotgun
  • 9.37pm - First police unit arrives at the scene in Hoddle Street
  • 9.39pm - Knight fires at passersby using the M14 rifle
  • 9.44pm - First ambulances arrive at the scene in Hoddle Street
  • 9.45pm - Knight withdraws from the Hoddle Street scene
  • 9.46pm - Knight fires 3 shots at police car "Northcote 253"
  • 9.48pm - Police Helicopter "Air 495" arrives over Clifton Hill
  • 9.59pm - Knight fires a shot at Constable Colin Chambers on the Northcote end of the Queens Parade/High Street bridge, which grazes his side
  • 10.05pm - Knight fires 3 shots at Police Helicopter "Air 495", forcing it to land on nearby Knott Reserve
  • 10.13pm - Knight cornered in McKean Street, Fitzroy North, and fires his final shots at police
  • 10.14pm - Out of ammunition, Knight surrenders and is arrested by police

Fatalities[edit]

The following is a list of those killed in the Hoddle Street massacre.[8]

  • Dusan Flajnik, 53
  • Vesna Markovska, 24
  • Robert Mitchell, 27
  • Johnny Muscat, 26
  • Gina Papaioannou, 21
  • Tracey Skinner, 23
  • Kenneth Stanton, 21

Possible Motives[edit]

Personal stress[edit]

Knight had been re-employed as a storeman/driver for a Melbourne clothing firm, Cuggi Rarity Stores Pty Ltd, but he was finding it near impossible to meet the weekly repayments on his $6,000 Defence Force Credit Union car loan. He was already two weeks behind with the repayments and he still owed over $5,800. In addition to the car loan he had around $1,200 of other debts.

The only asset Knight owned was a Holden Torana SLR5000 V8 sedan he’d purchased with the car loan in April 1987. He’d decided to sell it two weeks earlier to help him pay off his debts, and he had made extensive attempts to sell it, but a buyer still hadn’t eventuated. His financial problems had creating a great deal of anxiety and his daily alcohol intake was now around five times what it had been when he was in the Army.

Since his discharge from the Army on 24 July 1987, Knight had also attempted to re-enlist in two Army Reserve units; the 7th Transport Squadron, and the unit he had served in during 1985-87, the 4th/19th Prince of Wales’s Light Horse Regiment. On both occasions he had been rejected because of the pending criminal charges that had been laid against him.

At around 2.55am on Sunday 31 May 1987, Knight had stabbed his Company Sergeant Major in a Canberra nightclub, the Private Bin. He had been training as an army officer at the Royal Military College, Duntroon, since 13 January 1987.

The stabbing of his Company Sergeant Major was the direct result of continuous bastardisation and victimisation that he had been subjected to at the college. Immediately following the stabbing, Knight had surrendered to two Australian Federal Police officers in a nearby laneway, and he had subsequently been charged with malicious wounding, assault and assault occasioning actual bodily harm. He was now on bail – a $5,000 self-surety – and he was due to appear in the Australian Capital Territory Magistrates Court on 10 November 1987. The pending charges not only prevented Knight from re-enlisting in the Regular or Reserve Army, they also prevented him from pursuing almost any of the alternative careers he had considered following. The impending criminal convictions would effectively permanently exclude him from a military career – his "reason for living".

To compound his problems with re-adjusting to civilian life, Knight’s former Melbourne girlfriend wanted to have nothing to do with him, and his Canberra girlfriend had remained behind in Canberra. He had drifted apart from his local friends and, unable to afford to live by himself, he’d been forced to "camp out" in the front room of his mother’s two storey terrace house.

To add to his anxiety, Knight’s natural mother, who was living in the Republic of South Africa, had failed to respond to a letter sent to her by Knight’s social worker. Knight had been adopted as a baby, and he always knew this, but he was disturbed by his natural mother’s refusal now to communicate with him.

Popular culture[edit]

The Hoddle Street massacre has been the subject of a number of books and book chapters, and two Australian TV documentaries: ABC TV's award-winning "Hoddle Street" (1988) and GTV Channel 9's "Hoddle Street" (2007).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]