A bail justice who released Melbourne’s Bourke Street killer six days before the massacre was warned he would not get the mental health and drug treatment he needed if he was freed.
James Gargasoulas was paranoid, deluded and trying hard to impress police days before he mowed down and killed six pedestrians on January 20, 2017, the second day of an inquest has heard.
Six days earlier, Detective Senior Constable Murray Gentner interviewed him at St Kilda police station after his arrest earlier that day for threatening to kill a family member with a knife.
The detective tried to build a rapport to entice him to admit to crimes, while they waited for a bail justice to arrive.
“There was a jocular dealing with him. I was building rapport with him and trying to be non-authoritarian in regard to extracting information from him,” Det Sen Const Gentner said.
Gargasoulas then asked the detective: “Do you want to kill me? Why do you want to kill me?”
“That was to me straightaway a paranoia,” Det Sen Const Gentner said.
“I was symbolic to him of the authority of the police department.
“There was total delusion.”
Det Sen Const Gentner said he was preparing new charges based on new admissions, and told his colleague to make sure he told the bail justice about them.
Police believed Gargasoulas would not get bail but when it became apparent he would be released, Det Sen Const Gentner said he rushed into the hearing.
He said he told the bail justice the offender needed mental health and drug treatment and wouldn’t get it if left to his own devices.
He also said Gargasoulas posed an unacceptable risk of reoffending and had behaved dangerously in public.
Det Sen Const Gentner rejected the bail justice’s recollection of events, which was that the detective told him no charges would be laid.
“I was very clear I was charging him for offences he admitted to,” he said.
During the hearing, Gargasoulas told the bail justice he had an “understanding” with police.
“The offender was trying to impress me the whole time,” Det Sen Const Gentner said.
“He thought he could come and work for me, he wanted to be an informer. He was basically saying he could help me solve a murder. He was deluded.”
The detective sent an email to his superiors after Gargasoulas was granted bail, saying he would work on nailing him for serious crimes so he could be remanded in the next six days.
But the case took a “back seat”.
“I was literally snowballed that week. I had other offenders I had to prioritise at that time,” he said.
“My superior officers were aware of that.”
He said he did not know at that time the bail justice’s decision could be appealed.
He added Gargasoulas showed drug-induced mental health issues. He did not appear psychotic at the time of interview, but his behaviour escalated over coming days.