MELBOURNE (Reuters) – An Australian man who drove a car into dozens of pedestrians on a busy shopping street in central Melbourne last year, killing six people, was found guilty of murder and reckless conduct by the Victorian state Supreme Court on Tuesday.
In under an hour, a jury found James Gargasoulas, 28, guilty of murdering six people and recklessly injuring a further 27 people after he sped down Bourke Street shopping mall in January of 2017, local media reported. The dead included a baby and a 10-year-old girl.
Police said at the time that the incident was not terror related and that the driver had a “criminal history” that included domestic violence charges. He had also been experiencing drug induced delusions.
The incident was one of Australia’s worst mass killings, since the 1996 Port Arthur massacre on the southern island state of Tasmania, where 35 people were gunned down.
Gargasoulas’ assault occurred just a block from an attack last week when a man set fire to a truck laden with gas cylinders and stabbed one person to death, before being shot by police. He later died in hospital.
Police identified the man responsible for last week’s attack as Somali-born Hassan Khalif Shire Ali, 30, and said he was radicalised and inspired by the militant group IS propaganda.
A staunch U.S. ally, Australia has been on alert for terror-related violence after a Sydney cafe siege in 2014. Two hostages were killed during the 17-hour siege by a “lone wolf” gunman, inspired by Islamic State militants.
Authorities say Australia has foiled at least a dozen terror plots, including a plan to attack downtown Melbourne at Christmas in 2016.
(Reporting by Melanie Burton)