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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 17 November 2018
AUSTRALIA 6 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 17 NOVEMBER 2018 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Into the life of James Gargasoulas From his tough upbringing in Coober Pedy to causing horror on Bourke Street, through decades of abuse, addiction and failed efforts to get back on track On Tuesday, almost two years after the Bourke Street attack on 20 January 2017, James Gargasoulas was found guilty of 33 charges, six of which were for murder. Following his conviction, details of his life have surfaced in the media, narrating the story of the troubled man who caused immense grief and horror to Melbourne, causing the Bourke Street Mall tragedy. The chronicle of James Gargasoulas is an effort to answer a question that is still lingering. What happened in this man's life that drove him down this path and made him roam the centre of Melbourne that day, plowing into pedestrians and storefronts all the while he was planning to go on a caravan trip with his pregnant girlfriend, Maria? According to a report printed in Fairfax media, Gargasoulas wasn't in a good place before his rampage that cost the lives of six people, however, he allegedly wanted to get his life back on track just before the baby would arrive in early 2017; he had been repairing an old caravan he'd towed into their Coober Pedy backyard and he had promised Maria he'd get his act straight. Things between them had been tense and fights were hectic as was his increasing drug use and run-ins with police. Maria has been described by locals as soft-spoken and polite and had been working as a receptionist at a local caravan park. "Jimmy told me the plan was to settle down with his girlfriend and have a bit of a life," another local said to Fairfax. "Instead he was always off with his mates, messing around. He didn't stick it out, he wanted instant results." "Growing up, he was always more interested in doing stupid shit in cars and trying to make them faster … I remember going against him in a burnout comp one year and he blew his gearbox up trying to compete with everyone else," said Matty Graham, who has known Gargasoulas since school. Dimitrious, known to friends as Jimmy, was born in Adelaide but lived in Coober Pedy until he was 16. His mother Emily left him and his brother Angelo with his abusive father Christos and moved to Melbourne. His father man- aged an opal mining site and has been described as "a very hard man" who "forcefully" kept him in line. He was also homophobic, and James' brother Angelo is gay. "His upbringing was pretty average for the demographic in Coober Pedy in the sense that most people in that town still to this day still do it tough ... His was not really any harder than others per se." At some point he and his brother left and went to live with his mum in Melbourne as they could not stand the abuse. The circumstances were not better; they lived in commission housing – were often squalid and things would get rather violent. Gargasoulas would return to Coober Pedy from time to time, mainly escaping trouble in Melbourne be it drug and driving offences and, later, failing to appear in court while on bail for his increasingly long list of criminal convictions which included theft, burglary, assault and other driving offences. He rented a house in poor condition, half dug-into the ground, where he lived with Maria before the attack. The same property had many a time become a party home where he would also deal drugs from, another 'profession' he picked up while living in the 1700-head desert town where ice had become a real issue. He was reportedly selling to Aboriginal youths "who would turn up at his house in a steady stream", locals said. At that point he had been on and off drugs for years and had fathered three children with the fourth on the way. "The main thing I can tell you is less than a year ago [before Bourke Street] he seemed perfectly normal and was more interested in getting his caravan ready for a holiday," Graham told Fairfax media. "When I helped with the caravan all he wanted to do was get it all repainted and re-decked ready for a trip so if he decided they were going away they could just hitch up and go." Another woman, Tina, who according to Fairfax met him the year before the Bourke Street tragedy, described him as a "really, really good mechanic". His methamphetamine addiction was too powerful to override, though, especially when he would visit his stant source of problems," a police source said. "I'm sorry. I'm stuck in Melbourne until I figure out a few things," he texted to Tina on 30 October. ''My bro stole my car, that one white one. And f---ed all my plans. And I saw Maria," he told her explaining he wanted to return to his hometown. A month of extreme criminal activity followed and St Kilda and Windsor/Prahran areas were all aware of his dangerous driving and willingness to taunt officers into trying to chase him. "Jimmy believed his super- James “Dimitrious” Gargasoulas arrives at the Supreme Court in Melbourne. PHOTO: AAP IMAGE power was going down the wrong side of the road. When he was in a car he believed he was indestructible," a police source said. Around Christmas 2016, Gargasoulas boasted to a friend that he had escaped from police three times the night before. He had also threatened to use his car as a weapon to run people over if he was chased by police again. On the day of the attack, after he had nearly killed his brother with a kitchen knife Gargasoulas was on the run from the police and was posting delirious status updates on social media. A handout photo made available by Australia’s Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) shows the car driven by Gargasoulas. PHOTO: AAP VIA EPA/DPP hometown where "drugs such as meth, speed and marijuana arrive there literally by the truckload, smuggled along the Stuart Highway from Adelaide to Darwin in the massive road trains that supply life's necessities to desert communities along the route", Fairfax media reports. A tenth of a gram can get a hardened user to a very bad point, yet at his worst, associates said Gargasoulas was smoking up to a gram a day. "He'd come in, talk at me non-stop for 30 minutes then take off. Then he'd wander back an hour later and had no idea he'd just been there," said a long-time family friend, who has known Gargasoulas for more than 15 years. "He was completely f---ed up. I kept telling him to eat it, not to smoke it because it was cooking his brain. I tried to warn him but he said he had it under control." When not on drugs he would make the 16-hour drive between Coober Pedy and Melbourne without incident, even when after having stolen some power tools he was stopped by a passing Coober Pedy police officer. "Jimmy convinced the cop, with a totally straight face, he was just helping a friend move". Maria left him and he came back to Melbourne in October 2016, where he began a downward spiral of criminal behaviour that would eventually lead up to the Bourke Street Mall tragedy. While staying at the K2 housing commission flats in Windsor with his brother and mother, Police were frequently called there over violent altercations between them. Angelo also had garnered a series of assault, damage, theft and family violence charges. "It was a drop-in centre for drug-f---ed idiots and a con- "I'm going to do something drastic. Take everyone out. They can suffer the consequences. Watch me. You'll see me tonight on the news. The police have stopped me before but they ain't gonna get me this time. I'll make you believe me," he told a friend. That same morning he called Maria, who was about seven months pregnant, several times, saying "I'm not going to let them get me and go down like a bitch." Her mother threatened to call the police when he showed up at her home. Hours later he was driving over pedestrians in the CBD while smoking his cigarette. His 'reasoning'? He was the second coming of Jesus, a saviour destined to rescue humanity from annihilation by a comet, against the Illuminati's secret plan. His friends and associates, the court has heard, agreed that he never showed obvious signs of mental illness before he took up ice. Since, he was going more feral, getting more violent, losing his mind. "I knew him in a good way and a bad way," said a former friend from St Kilda. "When I met him five or six years [before Bourke Street] he was extremely confident, loud, fun, maybe a little too wild. "He started to take a bad turn around 2012-13. Smoking ice. Then he started speaking about the Illuminati, God and the devil, that sort of thing." "I cannot believe this happened. This is not him. Obviously it's the drugs," said the woman referred to as Tina while Mr Graham added that "There is no way that this was premeditated as opposed to drug-fuelled". It is all these accounts that have made it hard to draw a conclusion given that Gargasoulas underwent two mental competency investigations in the Supreme Court before he was declared fit to stand trial. The first jury deliberated for days yet was unable to isolate his diagnosis – paranoid schizophrenia – and his delusion from the crime itself, something the second jury decided is meaningless at law, finding him fit to stand trial within only a few hours of convening. Both the prosecution and defence agreed that at the time of the Bourke Street massacre Gargasoulas was suffering from a druginduced psychosis. "You should know that delusions brought about by the use of drugs, self-induced drugs, such as ice, provide no defence to any criminal charge and do not affect criminal responsibility,'' Justice Mark Weinberg said before charging Gargasoulas for six charges of murder and 27 charges of reckless conduct endangering life. As he had been deemed fit to stand trial, even though he still pleads 'not guilty', the first part of the saga is set aside while attention turns to how long he is likely to be imprisoned and whether or not he will get parole. There is no precedent of anyone causing such a senseless tragedy, while in a mentally unstable state caused by substance abuse. Questions arise as to how the point of his mental health deterioration due to drug abuse will be assessed, and how integral this assessment will be to the sentence served if the judge finds that it has been exaggerated by the perpetrator for the court. "I apologise from my heart. But that will not fix anything. Neither will a lengthy sentence for what I've done," Gargasoulas said.
10 November 2018
24 November 2018