Driver charged with murder as Melbourne residents mourn

Thousands gathered for a vigil near the site of last week's deadly incident in central Melbourne. There has been outrage over the news that the accused was out on bail at the time.
Thousands gathered for a vigil near the site of last week's deadly incident in central Melbourne. There has been outrage over the news that the accused was out on bail at the time.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SYDNEY • Thousands of people attended a vigil in memory of the five victims mown down by a car in the centre of Melbourne last week, just as police charged the suspected driver with murder.

Dimitrious "Jimmy" Gargasoulas, 26, was charged with five counts of murder, but refused to appear in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court yesterday, claiming through his lawyer that he was "unwell".

He was remanded in custody.

Mourners gathered at Federation Square in Melbourne to remember those killed.

The square overlooks the busy intersection where a car that had earlier been pursued by police suddenly began performing "wheelies" before heading towards the busy Bourke Street Mall where it struck a series of pedestrians.

Mr Henry Dow, who witnessed the carnage, gave a speech recalling a taxi driver who went to the aid of those struck by the car.

"Many images and sounds will stay with me much longer than I might like, but I'm glad I've seen, and hope I never forget, just how brave and loving strangers can be," Mr Dow said. "I love this city."

A man in his 30s, a man and woman in their 20s, a 10-year-old girl and a three-month-old thrown from a pram all died from injuries sustained as the car sped along the pedestrian-only street.

Fifteen people remain in hospital, with two in critical condition.

The Bourke Street Mall has become a makeshift shrine for the victims and has been adorned with a growing number of flowers and toys.

The accused killer - who had been sought by police earlier on Friday for allegedly stabbing his brother - has a history of family violence, mental illness and drug abuse.

It was revealed after Friday's tragedy that Gargasoulas had been free on bail, despite police opposition, following other serious charges.

Public outrage has prompted Victoria state's Premier Daniel Andrews to order a review of his state's bail system.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 24, 2017, with the headline 'Driver charged with murder as Melbourne residents mourn'. Print Edition | Subscribe