January 2017 Melbourne car attack
|January 2017 Melbourne car attack|
Police arrest the perpetrator at 555 Bourke St
|Date||20 January 2017 |
1:30 pm (AEDT)
|Convictions||Life in prison with a non-parole period of 46 years|
|Charges||Six counts of murder|
On 20 January 2017, around 1:30 pm AEDT, a car was driven into pedestrians in the CBD of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Six people were killed and at least thirty others wounded, three of whom sustained critical injuries. Police alleged that the victims were intentionally hit. The driver of the vehicle, Dimitrious Gargasoulas, was subsequently found guilty of six counts of murder and was sentenced to life in prison with a non-parole period of 46 years.
- 1 Background
- 2 Attack
- 3 Victims
- 4 Perpetrator
- 5 Timeline of events
- 6 Responses
- 7 See also
- 8 References
The maroon Holden Commodore sedan used in the attack was stolen from a man who lived in the same block of flats as Gargasoulas. Upon being interviewed, the car owner alleged that on the night of 18 January 2017, Gargasoulas entered his flat with a bible, sat down, started burning it and threw it into his face. After this, he said that he flicked it on the floor and was then punched by Gargasoulas.
It is alleged that Gargasoulas stabbed his brother in a flat in Windsor in the early hours of 20 January 2017, leaving the brother in critical condition. He then took his pregnant girlfriend hostage; she was later released on the Bolte Bridge.
There are videos of the man driving and behaving erratically at the intersection of Flinders Street, St Kilda Road and Swanston Street, outside the entrance to Flinders Street railway station. Two men, Year 12 student Tevita Mahina and his cousin Isaac Tupou, attempted to stop him, hitting the windscreen with a baseball bat. The driver continued northbound up Swanston St's western-side footpath at speed towards the Bourke Street Mall, turned left onto Bourke Street's southern-side footpath and struck more than 20 pedestrians. Victoria Police officers stopped the car by ramming it near AMP Square at 555 Bourke Street and shot the driver in the arm during his arrest. A child and two adults died at the scene, another man died in hospital before the end of the day, and a three-month-old baby boy died the evening after the attack. A sixth person died on 30 January.
Among the victims was a 10-year-old girl, who died on 20 January 2017, as well as a three-month-old baby boy who died on 21 January. The others were a 25-year-old man, a 22-year-old woman, a 33-year-old man, and a 33-year-old woman.
A memorial for the victims was held in Federation Square on 23 January and floral tributes were left by members of the public at nine locations along the Bourke Street Mall. On 30 January it was announced that a permanent memorial garden would be established, and that donations approaching AU$1,000,000 had been made to the Bourke Street Fund for the families of the victims. On 31 January, the inorganic tributes were removed from the mall for storage by the Melbourne City Council and the floral tributes taken for composting for the Victims of Crime memorial near State Parliament.
Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police Graham Ashton confirmed that 26-year-old Dimitrious "Jimmy" Gargasoulas had previously been remanded into custody and was known to police for having a history of illicit drug use, family violence, and mental health problems.
In the days before the attack, Gargasoulas began to post messages on Facebook about "religion, God, Satan, heaven and hell", which writers for The Age described as "rambling and often nonsensical". According to the Daily Express and Greece based TornosNews.gr, the perpetrator is an Australian citizen of Greek-Tongan descent.
Gargasoulas' father told Seven News "he's not the Jimmy I used to know" and he would "scratch his son off his books", while his mother told News.com.au she was ashamed to be his mum, and she wanted her son to "die in hell".
Police reported that the perpetrator was "not on our books as having any connection with terrorism ... He has been coming to our attention more recently, over recent days, in relation to assaults, family violence related assaults". The perpetrator had allegedly stabbed his younger brother for being gay.
During appearances at the Melbourne Magistrates' Court in April and May 2017, Gargasoulas made claims including that "Muslim faith is the correct faith according to the whole world," "I am the saviour," "I was under extreme stress, which caused me to have a mental breakdown," "[L]ife is being controlled by the government," and "I'm very saddened by everything that's happened, but it's due to the Illuminati."
Timeline of events
14 January 2017
- Police charged Gargasoulas at Prahran police station with speeding on the wrong side of the road and ignoring a police direction to stop. Police opposed bail, but Gargasoulas was granted bail for a 20 January court date.
18 January 2017
- Gargasoulas attacked Gavin Wilson, his mother's ex-partner, by thrusting a burning Bible in his face and stealing his car.
19 January 2017
- 9:26 pm: Gargasoulas 'checked in' at Dogs Bar, St Kilda, on Facebook, posting: "Thinking. About what to do with them lol."
- 10:00 pm: Gargasoulas was refused entry into Dogs Bar as he was suspected of being under the influence of drugs. It was commented by the owner of the bar that he displayed swagger and arrogance.
20 January 2017
- 12:30 am: Gargasoulas returned to Dogs Bar in a maroon-coloured car believed to be the same car he stole from Wilson, later to be used in the attack. Patrons reported that he smashed glasses and plates.
- 2:15 am: Police were called to an address in Raleigh Street, Windsor, after reports were lodged of two men fighting. Both the victim and Gargasoulas were gone by the time police arrived.
- 8.04 am: Gargasoulas was spotted driving in the background of a Today "live cross" which was reporting on the Windsor stabbing. The man rolled down the car window and waved his hat at the news camera.
- 11:30 am: Police followed the car along tram tracks in Clarendon Street in South Melbourne and unsuccessfully attempted to arrest Gargasoulas at a South Wharf intersection.
- 11:45 am: Police spotted the car weaving through traffic on Williamstown Road in Yarraville, west of Melbourne. Police pulled back due to safety concerns as the car was being driven "erratically and dangerously." The police air wing tracked the car as it moved toward the city.
- 1:30 pm: Emergency services were flooded with calls with reports of a car doing burnouts outside Flinders Street Station.
- 1:33 pm: The car in question drove north up Swanston Street.
- 1:35 pm: The car then allegedly struck a number of pedestrians in the vicinity of Bourke Street Mall, before proceeding further along Bourke Street, past the intersection with Queen Street.
- 1:37 pm: Reports of multiple shots fired. Gargasoulas was pulled from the car on William Street.
- 2:30 pm: Ambulance Victoria stated that they were treating 20 people in Bourke Street, many of them having sustained serious injuries.
- 2:30 pm: Victoria Police released a statement confirming that the situation had been "contained", one person had been arrested and another was dead.
- 3:20 pm: Police confirmed at a press conference that three people had died and that the incident was not terrorism-related.
- 9:00 pm: Police confirmed that a fourth person had died in hospital.
21 January 2017
- 10:53 pm: Police confirmed that a fifth person (a three-month-old child) had died in hospital.
23 January 2017
- Gargasoulas was excused from court by the magistrate, after claiming that he was feeling unwell. He was charged with five counts of murder.
30 January 2017
- Police confirmed a 33-year-old woman had died in hospital due to her injuries. This raised the death toll to six. Another murder charge was laid against Gargasoulas.
- Gargasoulas pleaded not guilty to all charges.
- A jury was empaneled to decide if Gargasoulas was fit to stand trial.
- Gargasoulas was found guilty of six counts of murder.
Police urged the public to share their testimonies and collaborated with over 300 witnesses. Graham Ashton, Victoria Police Chief Commissioner, was quick to dismiss claims the attack was an act of terror, but supposed it instead a consequence of an alleged stabbing which had developed into a crime spree. Victoria Police maintained religion was not a significant motivation. In an interview the day after the attack, Andrew Crisp, Deputy Police Commissioner, stated that police were hoping to interview and charge the suspect later in the day. He said that the fact that the suspect had been out on bail would be looked into by police. He congratulated everyone who dealt with the situation, stating "We saw the best of people yesterday. The support they gave to people on the street, it was amazing."
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews stated that "this was a terrible crime – a senseless, evil act" and promised that "justice will be done". The Victorian Government established a fund to provide financial assistance for the families of the deceased, and made an initial donation of $100,000.
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