Cop sent texts to Bourke St driver

The Australian - - FRONT PAGE - TESSA AKERMAN

Vic­to­rian po­lice ex­changed more than 20 text mes­sages with James Gar­ga­soulas and spoke to him on the phone for half an hour, send­ing him a mes­sage to “stop” as he did burnouts at Flin­ders Street Sta­tion ahead of an in­ci­dent in which six peo­ple died.

On the first day of his trial for six counts of mur­der and 27 counts of reck­less con­duct en­dan­ger­ing life, the Vic­to­rian Supreme Court heard that as Mr Gar­ga­soulas did the donuts, he taunted po­lice, shout­ing, “Look, they can’t do any­thing, they can’t stop me, they’re noth­ing”, and urged them to “come on, come and get me you c..ts”.

In an emo­tion­ally charged open­ing in a court­room filled with fam­ily and friends of the vic­tims, Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions Kerri Judd played footage of the in­ci­dent, which showed peo­ple be­ing flung in the air af­ter be­ing hit by the car.

“The car ploughed into peo­ple — in­fants, small chil­dren, shop­pers, stu­dents, city work­ers on lunch hour, young and old,” Ms Judd said. The youngest vic­tim, three-month-old Zachary Matthew-Bryant, was found 68m from the pram in which he was be­ing pushed.

Mr Gar­ga­soulas has pleaded not guilty to six counts of mur­der over the deaths of Zachary; Tahlia Hakin, 10; Jes­sica Mudie, 23; Yo­suke Kanno, 25; Matthew Si, 33; and Bhavita Pa­tel, also 33.

Ms Judd told the court po­lice had tracked him across Mel­bourne in a stolen Holden Com­modore, with De­tec­tive Se­nior Con­sta­ble Mur­ray Gent­ner urg­ing him to stop.

“It’s not look­ing good,” Mr Gar­ga­soulas texted the of­fi­cer. “I ei­ther die in jail or I die try­ing to run from the boys of which I’m one of them.”

The last text mes­sage from Con­sta­ble Gent­ner was at 1.32pm and just one word: “stop”.

At 1.33pm Mr Gar­ga­soulas turned left into the Bourke Street Mall, al­legedly mur­der­ing six peo­ple, and in­jur­ing dozens.

The court heard de­tails of the last mo­ments of the de­ceased. Si had shared a fi­nal lunch with his wife while Tahlia had been on her way to a magic show with her mother and sis­ter.

De­fence bar­ris­ter Theo Alexan­der told the court Mr Gar­ga­soulas would give ev­i­dence.

“He says that he had a very im­por­tant rea­son or rea­sons for what hap­pened on 20 Jan­uary 2017,” Dr Alexan­der said.

“Mr Gar­ga­soulas for bet­ter or

for worse is ab­so­lutely com­mit­ted to his ex­pla­na­tion and, as an­other jury found him fit to stand trial, he is ac­cord­ingly en­ti­tled to say what he wishes about the of­fences with which he has been charged.”

Dr Alexan­der said that Mr Gar­ga­soulas was “not a well man”, had a men­tal ill­ness, and at the time of the al­leged of­fend­ing was in a drug-in­duced psy­chosis.

“But to be clear, as a mat­ter of law nei­ther his cur­rent men­tal ill­ness not pre­vi­ous drug-in­duced psy­chosis can amount to a de­fence,” he said.

He said Mr Gar­ga­soulas had pleaded not guilty de­spite agree­ing to es­sen­tially all of the facts nec­es­sary to es­tab­lish the charges.

The court heard that po­lice had pur­sued Mr Gar­ga­soulas for hours be­fore he turned left into the Bourke Street Mall from Swanston Street.

“I’m go­ing to do some­thing dras­tic, take ev­ery­one out,” he told a friend at 2.50am.

“They can suf­fer the con­se­quences. Watch me. You will see me tonight on the news.

“The po­lice have stopped me be­fore but they ain’t go­ing to get me this time.”

Ms Judd told the court that Mr Gar­ga­soulas had a friend with him in the car dur­ing some of the pur­suit, be­fore he reached the city.

“I swear, if they catch up to me, I’m gonna to run ev­ery­one down in the city,” he told the girl af­ter po­lice tried to pull him over about 11.30am in South Mel­bourne.

Ms Judd told the court: “The pur­suit was called off due to safety con­cerns and in line with the ex­ist­ing pur­suit pol­icy.”

Ms Judd said a Crit­i­cal In­ci­dent Re­sponse Team unit ob­served Mr Gar­ga­soulas’s car stopped in traf­fic at the Wu­rund­jeri Way West Gate Free­way en­try in­ter­sec­tion at 11.37am.

She said po­lice ap­proached the car on foot with firearms drawn.

Mr Gar­ga­soulas pushed his friend out of the car and drove straight to­wards the po­lice, forc­ing them to jump out of the way.

The court heard po­lice in­clud­ing Con­sta­ble Gent­ner reached Mr Gar­ga­soulas again when he was per­form­ing donuts at the Flin­ders and Swanston streets in­ter­sec­tion.

“We de­cided we had to get there to pre­vent any ac­ci­dents,” Con­sta­ble Gent­ner said, adding that peo­ple were cheer­ing and ap­plaud­ing Mr Gar­ga­soulas when they ar­rived.

He said po­lice put their cars be­tween Mr Gar­ga­soulas and the crowd so his car would hit the po­lice ve­hi­cles if he lost con­trol.

Mr Gar­ga­soulas was shot in the arm and tasered dur­ing the ar­rest.

The court heard that Mr Gar­ga­soulas made a “no com­ment” in his po­lice in­ter­view but told a reg­is­tered psy­chi­atric nurse at the Mel­bourne As­sess­ment Prison that it wasn’t his fault. “I know I f..ked up but it wasn’t my fault,” he said.

“The ac­cel­er­a­tor got stuck and the cops were chas­ing me. What was I to do?”

The trial con­tin­ues be­fore judge Mark Wein­berg and a jury.

AAP

Gar­ga­soulas yes­ter­day

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