'Multiple victims, multiple victims': Bourke St inquest hears police calls

The Sydney Morning Herald 3 weeks ago

As James Gargasoulas tore along Bourke Street, senior officers pleaded over the police radio for someone to "take the vehicle out before he kills someone".

Audio from police radio communication, as the manic killer drove through Melbourne's CBD during his rampage, was aired for the first time during a harrowing opening day of a coronial inquest into the deaths of his six victims.

James Gargasoulas did "doughnuts" outside Flinders Street Station minutes before he murdered six people in Bourke Street.

For six minutes between Flinders Street and Bourke Street Mall, senior police can be heard repeatedly calling for officers to “take the vehicle out” as the 29-year-old steered his stolen maroon Holden Commodore through the city streets on the afternoon of January 20, 2017.

There, Gargasoulas ploughed into the crowd, hitting 27 pedestrians and killing three-month-old Zachary Bryant, Tahlia Hakin, 10, Jess Mudie, 23, Matthew Si, 33, Bhavita Patel, 33, and Yosuke Kanno, 25.

POLICE COMMUNICATIONS: On the footpath, westside Swanston.

ALTONA NORTH 450: Urgent. Someone needs to take this vehicle out before he kills someone. Received. Get an opportunity.

AIR 490: Bourke Street mall now. Uncontrolled on Bourke Street mall.

UNKNOWN: .......... 307, pedestrians hit. Bourke and Elizabeth, 307. Pedestrians hit.

POLICE COMMUNICATIONS: If any vehicle has the opportunity to take the vehicle out.

ALTONA NORTH 450: We have someone down on - multiple victims, multiple victims. As many units as you possibly can, we need to take him out.

POLICE COMMUNICATIONS: As many units as available, please head straight to Bourke Street.

TRANSIT 251: Need ambos, Bourke.

POLICE COMMUNICATIONS: How many patients have you got?

MELBOURNE EAST 260: He's in custody. We need - we need multiple units to go further up Collins Street, there's victims all up Collins Street. Receive.

MELBOURNE EAST 260: .......... he has been shot, he is in custody. And this priority now is victims.

(edited version of transcript)

Gargasoulas was shot after he'd ploughed into the crowds on Bourke Street.

Stephen O’Meara, counsel assisting the coroner, said when the sedan finally slowed, Gargasoulas was shot by two police Critical Incident Response team officers Senior Constable Roland Jones and Senior Constable Cavanagh.

“In the aftermath, an untold number of people rushed to help. Scores of emergency services were joined by ordinary members of the public who tended to the injured. Some attended the dead and dying,” he said.

"In a scene of chaos and fear, these selfless people acted immediately and with courage and compassion. In the face of inhumanity, they displayed the very best qualities of the human character.

“On October 28 this year Victoria Police introduced a hostile vehicle policy. This together with other police policy and procedures … will be examined here in this inquest.”

On Wednesday the coroner also heard details of the dozens of interactions Gargasoulas had with police in the days before as his erratic behaviour escalated into a violent crime spree.

This included the disputed evidence of Gargasoulas’ then-girlfriend.

Mr O’Meara said in a third statement the woman made to police she recalled warning officers that her partner was “going to the city to run people over”. But the police stationed in the city didn’t know.

Mr O’Meara said while police had since denied this was said, the evidence would be of “significance during the inquest”.

Coroner Jackie Hawkins said while it was her responsibility to investigate and search for the truth, it was also her duty to give the victims a voice.

“Friday January 20, 2017 started like any other ordinary day in Melbourne. It was summer and nearing the end of the school holidays. The city was pulsing with energy and life,” she said.

“At approximately 1.30pm six innocent lives were lost.

“It was a day when Melbourne bore witness to an unspeakable tragedy in our history.

“We all know who violently ended the lives of these six individuals ... the focus of my investigation is on the events leading up to January 20, 2017.”

There will be 62 witnesses called to give evidence during the inquest.

If you or anyone you know needs support call 131 114, or 1300 224 636.

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