Thousands attend Melbourne vigil in memory of victims of car rampage
Thousands of people attended a vigil on Monday in memory of the five victims mown down by a car at Melbourne’s busiest mall last week as police charged the suspected driver with murder.
The 26-year-old man, charged with five counts of murder, sustained gunshot wounds when police arrested him after the incident on Friday.
Mourners gathered at Melbourne’s Federation Square for a minute’s silence to remember those killed in the tragedy. Henry Dow, who witnessed the carnage, made a stirring speech, recalling a taxi driver who went to the aid of those struck by the vehicle.
“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. I love this city,” Dow said.
Other witnesses had earlier described “bodies flying through the air” as the vehicle sped through the shopping strip, leaving a trail of injured and a pram upturned on the sidewalk.
A man in his 30s, a man and woman both in their 20s, a ten-year-old girl, along with the baby thrown from the pram were all killed. Fifteen people remain in hospital, with two still in a critical condition.
“It’s been a tragic time ... but the people of Melbourne have pulled together and the spirit of the city was very evident there just as it was on the day of that shocking attack,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Australian radio.
The accused killer – who had been pursued by police earlier on Friday for allegedly stabbing his brother – has a history of family violence, mental illness and drug abuse.
He failed to appear in court on Monday because he was unwell, his lawyer told Fairfax media. A police statement said he was remanded to appear in court in August.
Footage circulating on social media showed the man half-hanging out of the side of the vehicle and driving erratically at one of Melbourne’s busiest intersections moments before the tragedy.
“A very, very large percentage of the cases police deal with, on the streets, involve people who have that combination of mental illness exacerbated – made worse – by drugs and alcohol,” Turnbull said, adding “this is a big and growing problem”.
Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews announced a review of the state’s bail system, after police said the suspect had been bailed on unspecified but serious charges just days before the rampage.
“Each of the families and those victims are owed nothing less than the hard work required and our singular focus to make the [bail] change necessary to make Victoria safer,” Andrews told reporters.
Additional magistrates will be made available after hours to determine bail conditions, rather than the lesser qualified bail justices often used today, he said.