Thursday, June 13, 2024

Strolling in footsteps of killer James Gargasoulas

Generally, the very best factor you are able to do on this job is to only go for a stroll.

I learnt this seven years in the past once I was sitting at my desk, making one fruitless telephone name after the following, making an attempt to report on a horrible factor that had occurred on this metropolis.

Just a few days earlier, James Gargasoulas had pushed on a murderous rampage by way of central Melbourne, killing 5 folks. A sixth particular person died later from her accidents.

It was, within the phrases of sentencing choose Mark Weinberg, one of many worst mass murders in Australia, the horror of which “profoundly affected the lives of lots of those that had been current that day in Bourke Avenue”.

My editors had given me what appeared like a easy task. Till that time, there had been an intense concentrate on Gargasoulas’ actions and motives main as much as the killings and the police failings that allowed him to drive into town. What was lacking was an in depth account of what occurred on Bourke Avenue: who the victims had been, the place they had been after they died and why they had been within the metropolis that day.

The story of the Bourke Street massacre revealed itself in unexpected ways at tribute sites throughout the city.

The story of the Bourke Avenue bloodbath revealed itself in surprising methods at tribute websites all through town.Credit score: Jason South

It was an vital story that wanted to be sensitively instructed. With neither the coroner nor Victoria Police prepared to share info at such an early stage of their investigations, the important information remained elusive. I’d made dozens of calls and little progress.

After one other inquiry was greeted with well mannered denial, I made a decision to get out of the workplace for some time and stroll the route pushed by Gargasoulas on that tragic Friday afternoon.

It was right here that the story of Bourke Avenue revealed itself in surprising methods.

By way of the Bourke Avenue Mall and alongside town footpaths the place Gargasoulas careered his maroon Commodore, folks had left tons of of bouquets, playing cards and different tributes. Some had been left by folks whose solely connection to the victims was town through which they died. Others had been left by witnesses.

A few of them had been written by individuals who had comforted Gargasoulas’ victims as they drew their remaining breaths.

When learn collectively, the messages supplied a vivid, first-hand account of the Bourke Avenue tragedy.

A bunch marked the spot within the mall the place 25-year-old Japanese pupil Yosuke Kanno was struck and killed after having lunch with a buddy in close by Chinatown.

One described an “angel in blue,” 22-year-old Jessica Mudie, who was killed close to the nook of Bourke and McKillop streets after travelling down from Sydney for work and to stick with her brother. A coronial inquest later discovered that she had her again to the oncoming automobile and died virtually instantly upon impression.

On the nook of Bourke and William Streets, amongst scented candles and playing cards left at a makeshift shrine, a letter was left for Zachary Bryant, simply three months previous and the youngest Bourke Avenue sufferer.

The letter was written by Nektarios Hondros, a close-by workplace employee who was the primary particular person to achieve Zachary’s tiny physique after it was dislodged from his pram and hurled throughout the intersection by the power of Gargasoulas’ automobile. “I’ll at all times keep in mind you mendacity in your again, eyes closed, limp,” the word learn. “I’m actually sorry that extra couldn’t be achieved to assist save your stunning younger life.”

A message left for the victims among the flowers.

A message left for the victims among the many flowers.Credit score: Penny Stephens

Whereas I used to be standing on the nook, making an attempt to image what occurred to Zachary and the fear his nanny Aaryn Melzer will need to have felt when the automobile rushed previous, Hondros approached me. He’d been quietly sitting on the intersection, watching me learn his letter. He described the horrific scene he’d witnessed. He stated the newborn was wearing a white jumpsuit.

By the point I’d reached the place just a little additional down the street the place Gargasoulas lastly crashed his automobile and was arrested by police, it was getting darkish. Rain had began to run the ink on among the playing cards and letters, making them tough to learn. However the clues they contained led me to different witnesses who had been prepared to speak about what they noticed.

In addition they revealed one thing past the horror of Bourke Avenue.

There’s a highly effective bond that comes from being with somebody in the mean time of their loss of life. It’s one thing understood by anybody who has sat by the deathbed of a beloved member of the family or buddy. After Bourke Avenue, it was additionally one thing that folks felt in direction of full strangers.

That is why, within the days after Gargasoulas’ rampage, folks had been drawn again to the locations marked by the playing cards and letters. They needed to reconnect, or maybe reconcile, with folks they’d identified solely in loss of life.

A rain-streaked message for 10-year-old Thalia Hakin, written by the off-duty nurse who tried to save her life.

A rain-streaked message for 10-year-old Thalia Hakin, written by the off-duty nurse who tried to avoid wasting her life.Credit score: Penny Stephens

Certainly one of them was an off-duty nurse named Jessica.

Thalia and Maggie Hakin had simply seen a magic present with their mum contained in the RACV Membership when Gargasoulas sped previous the venue’s entrance entrance. Thalia, 10, was killed; her mom and sister had been critically injured.


Amid scenes resembling a battle zone, Jessica tried to revive Thalia. Later, she wrote a brief word to the little lady and left it on the footpath outdoors the membership. “Dearest Thalia, I’ve solely met you in your remaining minutes. I’m sorry that we couldn’t prevent. Relaxation nicely, stunning.”

The morning after my stroll, I went again to the workplace, sat at my desk and cried at my keyboard. Then I wrote the story of Bourke Avenue.

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