Melbourne SUV attack suspect may be suffering psychiatric issues, court hears

Prosecutors said the suspect had driven his white SUV through the crowded Flinders Street intersection "with the intention of killing or causing serious injury".
Prosecutors said the suspect had driven his white SUV through the crowded Flinders Street intersection "with the intention of killing or causing serious injury".PHOTO: REUTERS

MELBOURNE - An Australian man who drove down pedestrians with his car at a busy intersection in Melbourne last week may be suffering psychiatric issues or have an undiagnosed illness, a court heard on Wednesday (Dec 27). 

Saeed Noori, 32, appeared at the Melbourne Magistrates' Court after being charged with 18 counts of attempted murder for driving an SUV into pedestrians doing their Christmas shopping at the corner of Flinders and Elizabeth streets last Thursday, Australia's ABC news reported.

Nineteen people were injured in the incident, including the suspect and the off-duty policeman who arrested him at the scene. Authorities have called the incident a "deliberate act", although he is not known to have any extremist links.

Noori, an Afghan refugee who arrived in Australia in 2004, stared at the floor as he appeared in court behind protective glass flanked by two security guards.

Magistrate John Hardy asked that Corrections management be made aware that Noori may be suffering mental health issues or overcoming a drug addiction, ABC reported. Hardy also told Noori it was important he continued taking his medication.

Noori was previously reported to have a history of drug abuse and mental problems.

According to a police summary of the case which the media were allowed to view, he had driven into pedestrians "with the intention of killing or causing really serious injury to as many people as possible".

An 83-year-old Australian man and a South Korean national are still in critical condition while six others remain hospitalised.

Nine foreigners, including tourists from China, Italy, India, Venezuela, Ireland, and New Zealand, were injured in the incident, which occurred as Melbourne was welcoming hordes of visitors for the festive season.

Noori, who was remanded in custody following a brief court appearance on Saturday, did not apply for bail and will next appear in court in May.