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Police blame lone wolf terrorist for deadly attack on Bourke Street

The Age logo The Age 9/11/2018 Erin Pearson, John Silvester & Simone Fox Koob

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A lone terrorist was responsible for a deadly stabbing attack that unfolded on Bourke Street in Melbourne's CBD on Friday afternoon.

One man was killed and two others injured after being stabbed by a man who set his ute alight outside the Target store near the busy intersection of Bourke and Swanston streets.

The attacker, who was a Somali community member known to ASIO, was shot by police after he repeatedly lunged at them with a knife.

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He was taken to hospital in a critical condition, but died on the operating table.

A relative of the man was arrested on terror-related charges last year. However, sources said there had been no intelligence from counter-terror authorities about any serious threat.

"He is known to both Victoria Police and federal intelligence authorities," Police Commissioner Graham Ashton said on Friday night. "There is no ongoing threat that we know of ... as I speak to you tonight. "But certainly we are treating it as a terrorism incident. He's got family associations that are well known to us."

It is believed the attacker, who lives in Melbourne's north-western suburbs, arrived in Australia in the 1990s. Two male victims are in hospital, including one in a critical condition with a neck injury and another with a head injury.

The attacker stopped his dual-cab ute on Bourke Street before setting it alight about 4.30pm. Fire crews later found a number of barbacue gas cylinders in the ute. "This is an evil and terrifying thing that has happened in our city," Premier Daniel Andrews said.

The centre of Melbourne's CBD remains in lockdown after horrific scenes unfolded about 4.30pm, sending Friday afternoon shoppers and commuters running for safety. However, some bystanders risked their own lives to help police stop the attacker. One man tried to repeatedly ram the attacker with a shopping trolley, while another used a traffic cone to fend him off.

A large crowd of people also stood and filmed the man's confrontation with police.

Two victims in hospital

Rod Patterson who was injured during the Bourke Street terror attack. © Facebook Rod Patterson who was injured during the Bourke Street terror attack.

Prominent Launceston businessman, Rod Patterson, 58, was one of two victims in hospital on Friday night. 

He suffered head injuries and was undergoing surgery. The other victim, a 26 year-old man, was believed to be in a critical condition with neck injuries.

Mr Patterson's wife, Maree, posted a message on social media thanking everyone for their wishes. "So unfortunately we got caught up in the attack in Bourke Street this afternoon and Rodney was hurt – good news is he is in a great hospital and doing OK given the circumstances," she wrote.

Mr Patterson, a former Autobarn franchisee and president of the South Launceston Football Club, owns an apartment in Melbourne. The identity of the victim who died has not been released.

How the attack unfolded

Superintendent David Clayton said police received reports that a vehicle was on fire in Bourke Street about 4.30pm.

"Nearby police quickly responded to the incident. As they got out of the car they were confronted by a male brandishing a knife and threatening them. At the same time passers-by were calling out that members of the public had been stabbed," Superintendent Clayton said.

"Police shot the male in the chest and he is now in a critical condition under [police] guard in hospital.

"Three people have been stabbed. Unfortunately one is deceased at the scene. Two other victims are currently in hospital. The bomb response unit have cordoned off the area."

The man stopped his dual-cab ute on Bourke Street, not far from the Target store near the intersection of Swanston Street, and set it alight.

He then started attacking people with a knife, stabbing at least three people. In a desperate attempt to stop the attacker, one man tried to push a trolley into him. That man was pushed over onto the street, but got up again to try to fend the attack off. Another man tried to ward him off with a traffic cone.

Transit officers were the first to respond, with one officer using a tree to protect himself from the attacker as he lunged at them with the knife. The attacker was then shot in the chest by police, before he was arrested and taken to hospital.

By 5.20pm, the body of one of the victims was lying under a white sheet on Bourke Street surrounded by police tape, near the entrance to Russell Place. There were large spots of what appeared to be blood near the body, as were a pair of men's black lace-up shoes.

About 6pm, police confirmed the victim had died. Later in the evening, witnesses were being taken to Melbourne West police station in police vans, some looking quite shaken. There were two dozen people in the foyer waiting to give witness statements to the police. Most sat in three rows of chairs, before being called to one of six tables set up by police.

One man briefly exited the building to greet a woman. He looked shaken as he hugged her - one sleeve of his white jumper was stained with dried blood.

'All hell broke loose'

One witness, Sarah Krug said she was heading to the night noddle markets when "all hell broke loose".

Her immediate thought was, "Oh no, not another Bourke Street incident," she said.

"I thought the car was coming for us," Ms Krug said.

"I didn't know what was happening there was just so much chaos and screaming."

'They all had panicked faces'

Stuart Gaut was inside the McDonalds on the corner of Bourke and Russell Streets when he felt the building shake and heard an explosion. As he ran to the entrance, he saw about 40 people sprinting past in fear. "They were bolting, they all had panicked faces," he recalls.

An amateur photographer, Mr Gaut grabbed his gear and ran in the opposite direction, towards the scene, to take photos. "I just saw the car, then the whole area was covered in smoke. There were a lot of policemen moving everyone away. It's funny how everyone just stands around and looks, no one was really running away." Mr Gaut then went back into the McDonalds, which was in lockdown for more than an hour, to pat the shoulder of a trembling witness recounting his account to police.

The Bourke Street Mall, including Myer and David Jones stores, were evacuated shortly before 5.30pm. Melbourne's anti-terror sirens and loudspeakers were used for the first time, sounding out across Bourke Street. The message over the loudspeakers said: "This is Victoria Police, please evacuate the area. This is Victoria Police, please evacuate the area." Witnesses told The Age they were shopping in the area when they saw a man throw what they believed to be a bomb into a car before it exploded. They had initially thought the man was running to catch a tram close by, before a nearby police car rushed to the scene. They heard screams and cries from the crowd before they were rushed from the area.

Twitter user Meegan May wrote: "Guy seems to have set his car on fire, then attacked police with a knife. Police response was swift and overwhelming. I heard at least one gunshot initially." Another witness said: "Big fire. Fully engulfed. Multiple loud bangs." The attacks comes on the second day of the highly-publicised murder trial of James Gargasoulas, who allegedly drove through Bourke Street Mall on January 20 last year, killing six people and injuring 27 others.


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