Families of victims have slammed the 46-year jail term handed to Melbourne’s Bourke Street killer James Gargasoulas, who committed one of Australia’s “worst examples of mass murder”.
Garasoulas, 29, will be eligible for parole in 2063, when he’s 73, but the penalty is “not harsh enough” according to some.
He was sentenced on Friday to six life sentences for murdering six people and injuring dozens in a “callous and cowardly” driving attack.
Victims’ relatives filled Victoria’s Supreme Court for Justice Mark Weinberg’s ruling and later said dangerous murderers like Gargasoulas “should never be allowed to roam freely”.
“The sentence is not harsh enough,” the families of five victims said in a joint statement.
“Our family hopes that no one will ever have to suffer a similar fate as those who lost their loved ones.”
In a collared shirt and flanked by four guards, Gargaoulas stood emotionless in the dock as he was sentenced.
“This was one of the worst examples of mass murder in Australian history,” Justice Weinberg said.
“Your actions were both callous and cowardly. You have shown no genuine remorse.”
In one of the city’s darkest days, Gargasoulas used a stolen car to mow down and kill six people in the busy Bourke St mall on January 20, 2017.
His victims included three-month-old baby Zachary Bryant, who was thrown 60 metres from his pram, and 10-year-old girl Thalia Hakin, who was holding her mother’s hand when she was struck.
“By your deliberate and wanton conduct, you murdered six young people, none of whom you knew, and none of whom had done any wrong,” the judge said.
Gargasoulas injured dozens of others, knocking them to the ground and into walls while driving in a drug-induced psychosis.
Justice Weinberg described in detail the events of the “terrifying rampage”, noting each victim killed as well as those left with broken bones, head injuries, internal bleeding and other lasting damage.
“You left a trail of destruction,” he said.
“Your crimes have had a shattering effect on countless lives.”
Crime Stoppers Victoria ambassador George Halvagis believes Gargasoulas should die in jail.
“He should never, ever get out of there,” he told reporters after the sentencing.
Grieving relatives recently told the court of their pain, with the brother of Japanese victim Yosuke Kanno saying he will “continue suffering from this until I die”.
Robyn Davis, the mother of victim Jess Mudie, said her daughter died three weeks before her 23rd birthday.
In a letter read to the court, Gargasoulas insisted he was not evil and blamed “government oppression” for the murders.
He also maintained he was the Messiah and acted on the wishes of God on the day of the rampage, but said he was in a “bad headspace”.
Gargasoulas pleaded not guilty to killing Zachary, Thalia, Ms Mudie, Mr Kanno, 25, Matthew Si, 33, and Bhavita Patel, 33.
But in November a jury found him guilty of the murders and 27 counts of reckless conduct endangering life.
Gargasoulas, who suffers treatment-resistant paranoid schizophrenia, was found fit to stand trial.
He had been using “ice”, committing crimes in the weeks before the attack and was on bail, and “ironically” meant to face court on the day of the massacre, the judge noted.
Police tailed the stolen Holden Commodore for some of its journey into the CBD before the rampage.
Timeline of horrific crime that shocked Melbourne
- January 20 2017 Gargasoulas strikes dozens of pedestrians in a stolen car in the CBD, killing five and injuring scores more
- Police set up an exclusion zone over eight city blocks and begin scouring for evidence
- January 23 – The accused is given medical clearance to be interviewed before he’s charged with five counts of murder
- January 31 – Bhavita Patel becomes the sixth victim when her family turns off life support
- February 9 – Police say they’re speaking to more than 900 witnesses and examining more than 70 videos and pictures
- July 19 – Coroner’s inquest begins and adjourns after two days
- December 15 – Gargasoulas pleads not guilty in Melbourne Magistrates Court to six counts of murder and numerous counts of injuring pedestrians
- June 22 2018 – A Supreme Court jury fails to determine if Gargasoulas is mentally fit to stand trial
- October 29 – A second jury takes less than five hours to find Gargasoulas mentally fit to stand trial
- November 7 – Gargasoulas pleads not guilty before Supreme Court jury on day one of his trial on six charges of murder and 27 counts of reckless conduct endangering life
- November 13 – A jury takes less than an hour to find Gargasoulas guilty of all charges
- January 29 2019 – Family of victims speak of pain in three-day plea hearing for Gargasoulas
- February 22 – Gargasoulas is sentenced by Supreme Court Justice Mark Weinberg to life in prison with a non-parole period of 46 years