Not what we needed at Christmas

Here it is in pictures, a SUV ploughed into a crowded intersection in Melbourne’s Flinders Street, where people were simply crossing the road during peak hour.

19 people have been injured, four critically, with no deaths so far. Police say the act was intentional, but are not at this stage linking it to terrorism. The man at the wheel, a 32-year-old Australian of Afghan descent, has a mental illness and a history of ice addiction.

    The driver was known to police for driving offences over recent months. He was also known to police in relation to a minor assault from around 2010.

    It’s alleged he drove up the tram tracks in a family member’s car and accelerated, before crashing into pedestrians and into the tram stop.

    The driver was the only person in the vehicle and no weapons were seen in the four-wheel drive.


    A second man, 24, was arrested at the scene but was not in the white Suzuki four-wheel drive when it crashed into commuters about 4.45pm.

    He was filming the scene at the time and allegedly had three knives in his bag. There is no known relationship between the men and Mr Patton said it was “probable” he would be exonerated. The second man was not known to police.

I was working at the time, helping an older lady who lives in a cottage in Spring Hill (an old suburb, next to the CBD, for foreigners), so I could not give it full attention, but NewsRadio covered it solid for probably two hours, with all sorts of eye-witness accounts.

It seems that the public immediately apprehended the driver, led by an off-duty policeman. However, every victim had multiple people assisting them. The police arrived in about two minutes, with the ambulance shortly thereafter.

Importantly, the police allowed those assisting to continue until the paramedics arrived.

Everyone I heard commented favourably on the response by the police and emergency services.

There was plenty of coverage at the ABC and most media organs.

At this stage all I will say is that when this kind of thing happens, there is a ‘copycat’ factor which makes it more likely to happen again.

What the courts will make of the incident is anyone’s guess and may depend on whether anyone dies. In recent times the ‘careless’ driver who hit and killed model Yasmin McAllister got no jail. Magistrate Barry Cosgrove said:

    “I do not sentence you on the harm caused but rather on the conduct that led to that harm.”

In that case the driver intended no harm.

In this case if terrorism was involved, the answer would be easy – lock him up and throw away the key.

Meanwhile we are reminded that life is fragile.

10 thoughts on “Not what we needed at Christmas”

  1. Brian,

    From various news reports, it appears the act in Melbourne yesterday was intentional.

    I don’t know how you would counter this type of act, other than to keep your wits about you.

  2. Not at Christmas, not at any time.

    Indeed Geoff M.
    When someone is intent on doing harm, and uses an everyday object or equipment which normally is not threatening, it’s difficult to see how to prevent the actions of the wrongdoer.

  3. Don’t despair, Geoff Miell, solid bollards and garden planters do fine – with the downside that they can give temporary cover to gunmen. Seem to recall from somewhen in today’s many broadcasts that work was in progress on just that.

    Given the track-record for sheer cowardice and pointless malice of the fake warriors, I wouldn’t put it past them to search out poor some deluded soul and make enticing suggestions as to what he must do. No personal risks to them, of course. Just a suggestion as to motive.

    Anyway, Merry Christmas and blessings on the Feast of the Prophet, ‘Isa.

  4. From the ABC:

    Police say the man who crashed his car into Melbourne pedestrians yesterday has blamed “the mistreatment of Muslims” for “some of his activities”, but they still do not know what motivated him to drive through a busy crossing.

    He has a name – Saeed Noori.

    I worry now about the role of a psychiatric assessment. It’s a truism and the bleeding obvious that anyone who does such a thing is not right in the head. But where does intentionality and responsibility sit in such cases.

    Psychiatry as a field is more than a little f***ed IMHO, so we’ll just have to see what happens and what we can make of it.

  5. Graham Bell (Re: DECEMBER 22, 2017 AT 5:48 PM):

    Don’t despair, Geoff Miell, solid bollards and garden planters do fine

    How are bollards useful at a pedestrian crossing? Are you recommending pop-up bollards at every crossing? Think about it.

    Merry Christmas to all. Keep safe. Cheers.

  6. Geoff M, when we were overseas in 2015, we saw pop-up bollards in Berlin to mark off the British Embassy, and in Prague they’ve built this pop-up wall to keep the river inside its banks where they are very concerned about a very deep underground train system.

    Unbelievable, really.

  7. Brian (Re: DECEMBER 23, 2017 AT 12:28 PM):

    Geoff M, when we were overseas in 2015, we saw pop-up bollards in Berlin to mark off the British Embassy

    It is one thing to have pop-up bollards at embassies and secure sites – it’s another thing to have them everywhere.

    If there were pop-up bollards at some pedestrian crossings with high traffic, what happens when they fail to operate (or a blackout)? High traffic means high rates of operation, means they wear out faster. Then you have a serious obstruction to traffic that needs to be fixed quickly.

    These are some of my thoughts. I would question whether there is a practical, cost-effective solution to overcome this type of threat. And is this threat sufficiently high enough – should we be concentrating on higher threats like the recent rise in the road toll?

  8. Geoff M, you are quick with the wet blanket!

    Mark went for a walk at Southbank the other day. It’s a popular place on a public holiday. The police had effectively thrown a ring around it and you had to have your bag searched to enter. Must have cost a bit.

    I heard there were two very busy intersections near the Flinders Street railway station. The authorities may feel those two should get preferential treatment.

    As to wearing out, who would have thought a 2-stroke engine could run at thousands of RPM for any time at all?

    A better idea might be to have a strip in the road that disables an engine if it runs over it, locking the wheels. Or something.

  9. I noticed that Victoria used parked trucks as temporary blockers for one event. Makes more sense than trying to have bollards ready to go into action all over the place.
    No easy protection however for some maniac who is happy to kill only a few people.
    It would help of course if there was zero publicity.

  10. Brian,

    Geoff M, you are quick with the wet blanket!

    Rather than having a knee-jerk reaction to events, I’m asking that a considered approach be taken.

    My original comment above was:

    I don’t know how you would counter this type of act, other than to keep your wits about you.

    Rather than being distracted by gizmos as we travel about, perhaps we should be more observant of what is going on around us?

    It seems to me we have limited resources to deal with this type of threat, and it seems to me it’s a limited threat.

    I think a greater threat is being killed/maimed on our roads due to unintentional acts going about our business. I would suggest this is where more resources be applied – a proportional response to the magnitude of the threat and their consequences. That’s my thinking.

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