The man who ran over and killed four people while rampaging through Melbourne had posted on Facebook ‘I’ll take you all out’ and stole the vehicle after threatening to ‘gouge the owner’s eyes out’.
The driver of the car, identified as Dimitrious ‘Jimmy’ Gargasoulas, is a Melbourne local who was charged with family violence offences last weekend and was out on bail when he ploughed through crowds in the city centre on Friday.
Gargasoulas, 26, has a history of mental health and drug abuse issues and police say he was also involved in a domestic stabbing incident at 2am on Friday.
After attacking his brother, Gargasoulas is accused of storming into his mother’s ex-boyfriend, Gavin Wilson’s, housing commission apartment and demanding the keys to his Holden Commodore.
The 76-year-old said Gargasoulas came into his flat with a Bible, set it alight and threw the burning book into his face before threatening to gouge his eye out.
‘He asked me twice for (the keys) and I said “no, I’m not giving it to you”,’ Mr Wilson said in an interview with Seven News.
‘Then he put his hand in my eye and started pressing. He said “Give them to me or I’ll gouge your eye out”, so I said “OK, OK”.’
Mr Wilson said he threw the burning Bible on the floor and Gargasoulas punched him.
Gargasoulas then drove into a street crowded with pedestrians in Melbourne’s city centre during the lunchtime rush on Friday, killing at least four people, including a child, and injuring around 20 others, police said.
Among the four people killed were a man in his 30s, a woman in her 30s, and a young child.
Officers had earlier in the day tried to intercept the vehicle, but called off the chase before he entered the downtown area because he was driving so erratically and they feared a chase through the city might endanger the community.
Gargasoulas is now in hospital after being shot in the arm by police, who dragged him from the vehicle.
Shocking mobile phone footage captured the moment the maroon vehicle performed burnouts outside Flinders Street Station before driving into crowds of shoppers on busy Bourke Street at about 1.30pm.
Gargasoulas was wearing nothing but red underwear when he was detained by police at the Elizabeth Street end of the mall. He remains under police guard in St Vincent’s Hospital and is yet to be questioned.
An insight into his disturbed state of mind has been granted via recent posts on his Facebook page, which claim he was not Greek Tongan, but rather: ‘Greek islamic kurdish ANGEL OF CULT’ (sic).
He also posted: ‘I’LL TAKE YOU ALL OUT … YOU NEED AN ARMY TO TAKE ME’.
During the horrific rampage a child was thrown from a pram which was dragged 100 metres down the street after getting stuck on the bonnet of the maroon car.
The baby’s mother watched in horror—as people ran for their lives in the ensuing chaos—and she was heard desperately begging: ‘Where is my baby?’
Half the pram was later found further up the road by the mall at a pedestrian crossing on William Street and the baby is believed to be in a critical condition.
‘A male deliberately drove into pedestrians in the Bourke Street mall, and we currently have three deceased and at least 20 injuries,’ police said earlier on Friday. They later updated the number of injured people to 24 people. Of those 24, four are children.
One of the four victims killed in the massacre is believed to be a 10-year-old Jewish girl, with her mother and sister in critical condition in hospital, according to Jewish News.
A witness, Renee, said she heard a ‘loud thud’ as three people were hit in front of her eyes.
‘I saw the car on the footpath and I saw the people out of the corner of my eye fly in the air… There were three or four contorted bodies on the ground,’ she said.
‘I could see the people on the footpath that had been run over.’
Sharn Baylis told The Age she gave CPR to a man who could not be saved.
‘[The driver’ was going around 60km/h but it seemed faster… People were literally just flying like skittles, bouncing off the bonnet and smashing into the shops,’ she said.
Police have confirmed it was not a terrorism related incident.
Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said the offender had become known to police following multiple incidents.
‘He is not on our books as having any connection with terrorism and we’re not regarding this as a terrorism-related incident. What we do know of the person is there is an extensive family violence history involved,’ Chief Commissioner said.
‘He has come to our attention on many occasions in the past. We have mental health and drug-related issues in the background of this particular person.
‘He has been coming to our attention more recently over recent days in relation to assaults, family violence-related assaults.’
Pedestrian access has been closed on Bourke Street between William and Swanston Streets. Police said the situation had been contained, but have requested that people avoid the area.
Emergency services in Melbourne are overwhelmed, with paramedics put on Code Red meaning anyone available to work must do so, and a number of hospitals on Code Brown, meaning medical staff were braced for an emergency.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews addressed the media and said he was proud of the way emergency services and Victorians responded to the ‘evil’ criminal act.
‘We are so proud of our emergency services, so proud of Victorians who, in the midst of this, stepped forward to help their fellow citizens and we are all confident that we are bigger and stronger and better than this evil criminal act today,’ he said.
Father-of-two Stephen O’Brien, 52, told Daily Mail Australia that he was walking out of Bourke Street Mall with his seven-year-old son when he saw the car ‘travelling uncontrollably’.
‘I heard a lot of screaming first. Then I saw the van accelerate down the mall. The police were chasing him
‘I saw a man carrying out CPR on a guy and then the police moved us on.
‘My wife said she saw the guy get hit. He did a complete somersault in the air and landed on his back.
‘He looked pretty bad. His face was covered in blood. It looked like a civilian was trying to given him CPR. His face was absolutely mangled. Then we saw they had a blanket over him.
‘It’s upsetting for me and my seven-year-old son saw it too. He asked, ‘why did they do it?’.’
‘People were running out of the way, they were going very very fast,’ another witness, Rebecca Russo, told The Age.
‘I saw him hit a few people. I saw bodies flying into the air.’
Other people said they heard a boom and gunshots, with one man telling Sky News there was ‘a hell of a lot of blood’.
‘There’s someone on the middle of the ground and there’s blood all over the street,’ Rishi Hathiramani, a CBD shopkeeper, told AAP.
‘I’ve seen accidents but never this bad.
‘It’s pretty brutal.’
‘A heap of people ran into my store, it was horrible. Half of my staff are in tears,’ a Strandbags manager told AAP.
City office worker William Mulholland said he came out of a laneway and saw a number of bodies lying on the pavement receiving CPR from police and emergency workers.