14 Nov 2018

Melbourne driver found guilty of six murders

11:31 am on 14 November 2018

A man has been found guilty of murdering six pedestrians and recklessly injuring another 27 when he sped along a footpath in Melbourne's Bourke Street last year.

People lay flowers on Bourke street in Melbourne on January 22, 2017, after after a man went on a rampage in a car.

Flowers laid at the scene of last year's attack in Melbourne. Photo: AFP

The jury deliberated for just 57 minutes before returning the verdict, ending a trial in the Victorian Supreme Court which lasted less than a week.

James Gargasoulas jiggled his knee in the dock as the verdict was read out, but did not react as "guilty" was delivered in response to each charge.

Some victims and family members of those killed were in court. Many wiped their eyes as the names of their loved one were read out.

The families of five victims, who are being represented by Adviceline Injury Lawyers, released a statement welcoming the verdict.

"The families of the victims are grateful to all those whose hard work secured today's outcome, and for the ongoing support they have received during this difficult time," the legal firm's senior associate Genna Angelowitsch said.

"They appreciate the continued respect of their privacy as they prepare for the sentencing process."

Conclusive CCTV evidence had been played during Gargasoulas' trial, showing his victims in their final moments, walking along the footpath, oblivious to the car coming behind them.

They were then hit by the car, with one victim, three-month-old boy Zachary Matthew-Bryant, landing 68 metres from where he was struck.

He was one of six people killed. The others were Yosuke Kanno, 25, Bhavita Patel, 33, Jess Mudie, 22, Matthew Si, 33, and Thalia Hakin, 10.

The court was told the 28-year-old was driving at speeds of more than 60 kilometres per hour, and had not stopped driving even when a pram he hit became lodged in the car's windscreen.

Director of Public Prosecutions Kerri Judd QC closed the prosecution case by telling the jury it was the "clearest case of criminal liability that you will ever come across".

During the trial, witnesses gave evidence of Gargasoulas' composure as he accelerated down the footpath, with both hands on the steering wheel, during the busy lunchtime period on January 20, 2017.

Solicitor Joshua Baldacchino told the court he was walking back to his office when he saw people running and screaming to get out of the way as the car ploughed through pedestrians.

Banker Aaron Jensen was further up Bourke Street when he saw the car driving up the footpath.

He told the court he could still remember the desperation in the eyes of a man who had tried to jump out of the way but had been clipped by the car and ricocheted back onto the bonnet.

Gargasoulas pleaded not guilty but admitted he had been the driver, caused the deaths and injuries of 33 pedestrians, and was in a drug-induced psychosis at the time, which did not amount to a defence.

At the outset of the trial, his defence barrister Theo Alexander told the jury Gargasoulas would give evidence about his "very important reason" for committing the attack.

"Mr Gargasoulas, for better or for worse, is absolutely committed to his explanation and as another jury found, he is fit to stand trial," he said.

"He is accordingly entitled to say what he wishes about the offences with which he's been charged."

In his final address to the jury, Dr Alexander conceded Gargasoulas had no defence to the charges.

In an unusually short closing, which lasted about one minute, he thanked the jury on behalf of Gargasoulas for their attention.

On the penultimate day of the trial, Gargasoulas was called as the defence's only witness and told the jury he'd had a premonition from God of running people over in Bourke Street, about half an hour before he drove there.

"I apologise from my heart," he said.

Gargasoulas will be back in court on January 29 next year for a plea hearing.


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