James "Dimitrious" Gargasoulas leaves the Supreme Court of Victoria in Melbourne, Wednesday, January 31, 2019. Picture: David Crosling/AAP

No real remorse from Bourke Street killer

ONE of Australia's most despised murderers sat in the dock at the back of the Victorian Supreme Court in a crinkled shirt for three days this week.

Below him and to his left sat dozens of Melburnians whose lives were ruined by his actions.

He crossed his arms and yawned as family members of the six people he ran down on January 20, 2017 poured their hearts out.

And he never once reached for the tissue box that sat to his right.

James Gargasoulas appeared to try and feign interest as the bereaved told stories of the Bourke Street rampage from a perspective he will never understand.

He nodded his head from time to time, but he didn't seem to be listening. He was waiting for his turn.

"I apologise from my heart for taking the lives of your loved ones," he began after Justice Mark Weinberg approved the reading of a three-page letter.

But for the next 20 minutes he treated the witness box as his stage and treated his victims as characters in a story that played out inside his head.

In Gargasoulas's warped fantasy, somehow he is the victim.


The letter included threats.
The letter included threats.


Gargasoulas watched on from the dock for three days. Sketch: Paul Tyquin/AAP
Gargasoulas watched on from the dock for three days. Sketch: Paul Tyquin/AAP

He sidestepped responsibility for the murders by blaming the Queen, the Federal Government, God and "girlfriend troubles".

He justified his decision to speed through Bourke Street mall in a stolen car because "I was in a bad head space" and defended his decision to accelerate as bodies bounced off his windscreen because he was following a "vision" that demanded he run people over.

"I am a victim of government oppression. It is because of oppression that six people died. Oppression is the root cause of terrorism and crime," he said.

"The government should take all responsibility. I am not evil, I am not a terrorist. I am a freedom fighter."

A family member of one of his six victims described the rant as "deluded" while others chose not to listen to it at all, walking from the courtroom before the 29-year-old had the chance to speak.

What his letters proved is that Gargasoulas still doesn't get it, and likely never will. His treating psychiatrist Douglas Bell said as much when asked to describe Gargasoulas's mental state.


James Gargasoulas moments before the attack. Picture: Tony Gough
James Gargasoulas moments before the attack. Picture: Tony Gough


"His delusional beliefs are essentially unchanged," Dr Bell told the court. "He still believes he is the Messiah … and is someone who can save the world from being destroyed by a comet."

Gargasoulas's lawyers have pushed the idea that his actions on that Friday in January two years ago were driven by his delusions. But the Coober Pedy local who moved to Melbourne for a better life has a history of violence. And he's used his car as a weapon before.

Court documents lodged at his pre-sentencing hearing this week show Gargasoulas punched his partner on one occasion and used his car to run her off the road on another.

The incident, in May 2016, saw the victim's car roll. His justification for the attack was a paranoid belief that she was having sex with someone else while driving.

That same partner gave birth to Gargasoulas' fifth child - he has four others with two other women - months after the Bourke Street attack.

Prosecutors who secured a guilty verdict for all six murders in December do not accept the excuses Gargasoulas uses.

In their submission to the court this week, they labelled his conduct "deliberate, calculated and terrifying".


Gargasoulas murdered six people in January, 2017. Picture: Penny Stephens/AAP
Gargasoulas murdered six people in January, 2017. Picture: Penny Stephens/AAP

They compared the murders of Thalia Makin, 10, Jess Mudie, 22, Matthew Si, 33, Bhavita Patel, 33, Yosuke Kanno, 25, and toddler Zachary Bryant to Australia's worst massacre committed at Port Arthur by Martin Bryant.

"In his attempt to evade and disrupt his imminent capture and arrest, the prisoner drove through the most populous part of the Melbourne CBD on the pavement and through the Bourke Street mall at a time when it was likely to be very crowded with children, tourists,

shoppers and office workers," prosecutors wrote.

"Like the unspeakable crimes committed by Martin Bryant at Port Arthur, Bourke Street, Melbourne, will never be the same again."

Like Bryant, they hope Gargasoulas is jailed for life with no parole. Only a handful of Australia's worst killers, including Bryant and rapist and murderer Adrian Bailey, have received such a sentence.

Gargasoulas waits to learn his fate alone inside a tiny cell at the Melbourne Assessment Prison. He spends 23 hours a day inside his cell. He's not allowed contact with other prisoners and rarely takes the opportunity to exercise or access sunlight.

He'll find out within weeks if he'll ever see freedom again.

rohan.smith1@news.com.au | @ro_smith

The attack in Gargasoulas’ own words.
The attack in Gargasoulas’ own words.