An Australian man has been found guilty of murdering six people and injuring 27 others in a vehicle attack in Melbourne. A supreme court jury took just over an hour to find the 28-year-old, who admitted killing six people in a Bourke Street rampage on 20 January last year, guilty of all charges.
The court found that across the morning of January 20th, 2017, James Gargasoulas lead police on a sustained car chase after allegedly stabbing his brother at a house in Windsor and taking his brother’s pregnant girlfriend hostage, who he later released on the Bolte Bridge.
After evading police for several hours, Gargasoulas, driving a stolen Holden Commodore, was spotted by hundreds of civilians doing burnouts at the intersection of Flinders and Swanston Street. From there, Gargasoulas drove up Swanston Street, turned into the pedestrian-only Bourke Street Mall, and struck upwards of 33 people. 6 of whom subsequently died.
One detective desperately sent text messages to Gargasoulas in the minutes before the tragedy in an attempt to persuade him to surrender, the trial heard.
But the driver replied in a text message he was the saviour and that Earth was destined to be hit by a comet. “I’m one man and you need an army,” one message said.
Despite admitting his actions driving through the busy pedestrian mall and along footpaths caused death and injury, he pleaded not guilty to six charges of murder and 27 of reckless conduct endangering life.
Some of his victims’ relatives wiped away tears as the verdicts were read out but there was barely a sound or flicker of emotion through the packed court.
During the trial, Director of Public Prosecutions Kerri Judd QC told jurors it was “the clearest case of criminal liability that you will ever come across”.
The defence did not challenge the prosecution case, and Gargasoulas took the witness stand to offer an “explanation” in which he said he was sorry for his actions.
Gargasoulas told the court on Monday he hadn’t intended for anyone to die, but understood that “in a sense, yes” he knew when he was doing it that was the probable outcome.
“I apologise from my heart but that’s not going to fix anything … neither will a lengthy sentence fix what I done,” he said.
He claimed he had a premonition half an hour before the Bourke St attack giving him permission to run people down in order to evade police, also rambled about a comet hitting Earth, the Illuminati, Muslim freedom fighters, upholding God’s law and government oppression.
Gargasoulas won’t be sentenced until February at the earliest.
Those killed in the attack were 25-year-old Yosuke Kanno, 10-year-old Thalia Hakin, three-month-old Zachary Matthew-Bryant, 33-year-old Bhavita Patel, 22-year-old Jessica Mundie, and 33 year-old Matthew Si.
Two other children were among the 27 people injured, along with an 85-year-old woman and a pregnant woman, whose baby was unharmed.