Melbourne car rampage: James Gargasoulas jailed for six murders

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James Gargasoulas outside courtImage source, EPA
Image caption,
James Gargasoulas drove his car into pedestrians in Melbourne in 2017

An Australian man has been sentenced to life in jail for murdering six people and injuring 27 more in a vehicle attack in Melbourne.

James Gargasoulas, 29, deliberately ploughed a stolen car into pedestrians in the city centre in January 2017.

He later told a court in a confusing speech that he had carried out the attack after receiving a premonition.

On Friday, a judge described it as one of the worst mass murders in Australian history.

"You made no attempt to avoid people or to slow down. You simply ploughed through them, quite deliberately," Justice Mark Weinberg said, according to a report by Seven News.

The attack killed three-month-old Zachary Bryant, Thalia Hakin, 10, Jess Mudie, 22, Yosuke Kanno, 25, Bhavita Patel, 33, and Matthew Si, 33.

Gargasoulas will be eligible for parole after 46 years.

Media caption,

Footage showed Gargasoulas driving erratically before the attack

He had pleaded not guilty to the attack on busy Bourke St, but later admitted to carrying it out.

During his trial last year, a jury was shown graphic footage of Gargasoulas, also known by the name Dimitrious, targeting pedestrians at speeds of more than 60km/h (37mph).

His youngest victim, Zachary Bryant, was struck alongside his sister in a double pram. Miraculously, two-year-old Zara somehow survived being thrown 150m (500ft) through the air.

Other footage showed Gargasoulas driving erratically beforehand, as dozens of bystanders watched on.

'Full' culpability

Gargasoulas testified that he had received a premonition from God directing him to drive into pedestrians. When asked whether he knew he would kill people, he said: "In a sense, yes."

He also read a two-page statement - cut down from 25 pages - in which he apologised for his actions, but also rambled about subjects such as the "Illuminati" and government "oppression".

A jury took less than an hour to convict him last year, after what prosecutors called "the clearest case of criminal liability that you will ever come across".

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Can vehicle attacks be prevented?

In his sentencing remarks, Justice Weinberg said Gargasoulas's actions were not caused by mental illness, noting the killer had been in a drug-induced psychosis at the time.

"You knew full well what you were doing," Justice Weinberg said.

Relatives' pain

Several relatives of the victims had spoken of their devastation in court.

Zachary's father, Matthew Bryant, said: "I listened to his heartbeat and held him for the last time trying desperately to hold onto the moment. He had a lifetime of firsts taken from him and all the joys that come with it."

Masayuki and Minako Kanno said they were living in "deep pain and sorrow" after the death of their son, Yosuke, a Japanese student who had been studying in Melbourne.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
A makeshift memorial in 2017 featuring photos of victims Matthew Si and Jess Mudie

Three months ago, Bourke St was the scene of an unrelated terror incident that left one victim dead and two others injured.