As she took to the witness stand, perhaps for the last time, Melinda Tan told the coroner that the death of her husband at the hands of a “psychopath” who mowed down pedestrians with a car was likely to happen again in her lifetime.
- Family members of those killed by James Gargasoulas at Bourke Street told the coroner of their anguish and disappointment in police
- The brother of Japanese student Yosuke Kanno said Australia had failed him and his family
- The coroner will hear submissions in May
And the forces of justice charged with stopping such hostile vehicle attacks — Victoria Police — had already failed her and five other families once before.
“If this is the best that Victoria Police can offer then we are better off protecting ourselves,” she said.
After 31 days and more than 60 witnesses, the Bourke Street coronial inquest has come to a close, with hearings now adjourned until submissions are heard in May.
On the final day of public hearings, those whose loved ones were ripped from them by James Gargasoulas on January 20, 2017, addressed the coroner.
Ms Tan, who lost her husband Matthew Si, spoke on Wednesday with a fury that has not subsided.
“My young daughter Aria, Matthew’s child, asked me the other day, why did Papa have to die?” she said.
“Apart from the actions of the offender, I will leave that question for Victoria Police to answer.”
Her anger at Victoria Police was formidable, particularly at officers who she said refused to admit their mistakes.
“Certain officers were more focused on their careers and safety rather than protecting the public,” she said.
“The force touted a motto of ‘safety first’ which seems to only extend to their own employees.
“You should not carry the badge or wear the title if you’re not willing to risk yourselves for the community.”
Ms Tan made several references to the evidence police gave about the force’s former pursuit policy which has been called conservative and which some officers testified that they were worried about breaching.
She also made a thinly veiled jab at Assistant Commissioner Stephen Fontana, who wrote an internal critical incident review about the attack which the force failed to suppress.
In the review, the senior police officer said that despite identifying ways in which the force failed that day, it did not mean that a “better outcome would have been achieved” if another course of action had been taken.
“In other words, our families had to be sacrificed on that day,” Ms Tan said.
She also drew attention to another failing that Assistant Commissioner Fontana found — that Victoria Police officers on the ground “had no alternative plan or strategy”.
“The whole plan was hinging on this one person negotiating with the offender,” she said.
“You cannot negotiate with a psychopath via text messages.”
The brother of Yosuke Kanno, Junpei, made a statement to the court that was read by his cousin, Hitomi Hattori.
“I feel my younger brother was killed by this country, Australia,” he said.
“I see Australia as a country where you are murdered just because you just happen to be walking on the street, while the killer is guaranteed a warm bed and cooked meal, as well as medical care to fulfil his life.”
He told the court how his father now drinks more and his mother makes the three-hour trip to his brother’s grave, no matter the weather.
Bourke Street victims:
- Yosuke Kanno: 25-year-old student from Japan. He had just been to lunch with a friend when he was struck
- Jessica Mudie: 22-year-old insurance consultant from Sydney who was in Melbourne for a business meeting. She was returning from lunch with colleagues.
- Matthew Poh Chuan Si: 33-year-old architect and father of an 18-month-old daughter. He had just been to lunch with his wife.
- Bhavita Patel: 33-year-old accountant. She had been to lunch with colleagues.
- Thalia Hakin: 10-year-old primary school student. She was on her way to a circus show with her mother and sister.
- Zachary Matthew-Bryant: The 3–month-old was in a pram with his sister when he was struck.
He spoke of how his brother’s death had made him a “cold-hearted” person.
“My brother came here to study because he wanted to support many people as an occupational therapist. All he wanted to do was to help others, but I cannot picture myself helping others because my brother’s kindness backfired on him in this instance.”
The families of Jessica Mudie and Zachary Bryant also made statements to the court.
Stephen O’Meara QC, who has been assisting the coroner, acknowledged how significant the inquest had been in Melbourne.
“It’s had an effect on the community, it’s had an effect on those present, it’s had an effect on the families most of all,” he said.
“It’s had an effect on those who were injured. It’s had an effect on the countless numbers of people who’ve been here every day to absorb the real power of this event and many have done so including those present today with insightfulness, poise, poignancy and dignity.”
Oral submissions will be made to the coroner in May.