The fatal attack on beloved Melbourne identity Sisto Malaspina in Bourke Street three years ago was a premeditated act of terrorism.
Victorian State Coroner John Cain has handed down his findings into the horrifying 19-second attack by Hassan Khalif Shire Ali in November 2018, finding it was motivated by his adherence to Islamic extremism and ISIS.
He found opportunities to prevent the attack may have been missed, but he was unable to conclude that Shire Ali’s trajectory toward it would have been averted if intelligence gaps had been filled, if a different threat assessment had been made or if Shire Ali had not been bailed weeks earlier.
Mr Malaspina, the co-owner of Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar, was one of three people stabbed in a frenzied attack by Shire Ali who was a national security person of interest.
The horror began when Shire Ali set fire to gas tanks in his car.
Bystander Rod Patterson believed he was running to help the driver when he was blindsided by Shire Ali and stabbed in the head with a 22-centimetre hunting knife.
Shire Ali then overpowered Mr Malaspina, repeatedly stabbing him before chasing down security guard Shadi and stabbing him in the neck.
He turned then on police, who tried first to disarm him with their batons before one fired his weapon.
In a hearing on Monday, Judge Cain said the available evidence supported a finding that Shire Ali’s actions constituted a premeditated act of terrorism and an ISIS-inspired attack, attributable to Shire Ali’s adherence to an extremist interpretation of Islam.
He said while the actions of one man that day were intended to intimidate and harm, the acts of many others who stepped in demonstrated the opposite result.
He praised Mr Patterson and other bystanders, including two off-duty police officers who acted with real courage, and in scant regard for the consequences for themselves.
Judge Cain also found the use of lethal force by police was justified in the circumstances.
The two officers who first arrived on the scene, known as A1 and B2, believed they were responding to a car fire but instead found themselves confronted with an armed and determined assailant.
He commended them for their presence of mind, restraint and effective collaboration in a volatile and dangerous situation, noting one of the officers only graduated from the police academy five months earlier and it was their first time working together.
Judge Cain said there was evidence Shire Ali’s criminal behaviour was escalating in the lead-up to the attack, including allegations he assaulted an acquaintance, damaged a vehicle with a sledgehammer, assaulted a person with a hammer, was involved in a hit-run and kicked a car door after an altercation with a stranger.
All of those were reported to police.
On October 12, 2018, Shire Ali was pulled over by police. He had five warrants outstanding and was bailed on the side of the road by a police sergeant.
Judge Cain found those actions were reasonable and appropriate.