'Don't do this': Detective's desperate text messages to Gargasoulas before Bourke Street tragedy
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'Don't do this': Detective's desperate text messages to Gargasoulas before Bourke Street tragedy

In the minutes before he turned into the Bourke Street Mall a police officer sent James Gargasoulas a desperate text message.

"Don’t do this," he pleaded.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court heard Mr Gargasoulas led police on a chase through Melbourne on the morning of January 20, 2017, ahead of the lunchtime rampage that killed six people and injured 27 others.

Detective Senior Constable Murray Gentner was in pursuit on that Friday morning and repeatedly tried to convince Mr Gargasoulas to surrender via a phone call and a series of text messages.

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"James, you have to call me now, bro. We don’t have time," the detective texted.

"Don’t be silly, I’ll help you fix everything."

Detective Gentner told the court he believed he could negotiate a surrender, because he had a rapport with Mr Gargasoulas as a result of previous interactions.

"You have to call me now," the detective texted at 1.04pm.

At 1.19pm the detective said: "I’m four metres behind you. Stop."

At 1.20pm he pleaded: "I'm telling you, you're making a big mistake".

Detective Gentner sent a flurry of messages over the following minutes. "Stop please. Stop for me."

Detective Senior Constable Murray Gentner leaves the Supreme Court on Thursday.

Detective Senior Constable Murray Gentner leaves the Supreme Court on Thursday.Credit:AAP

Mr Gargasoulas responded in a series of texts where he referred himself as a "saviour" and that the planet was destined to be destroyed by a comet. "I'm one man out and you need an army," Mr Gargasoulas texted.

Only minutes before Mr Gargasoulas turned into Bourke Street, Detective Gentner made what turned out to be a last ditch plea: "Don’t do this. Meet me. Stop doing this. Stop."

Mr Gargasoulas faced the Supreme Court charged with six counts of murder and 27 counts of reckless conduct endangering life. He has pleaded not guilty to all 33 charges.

Detective Gentner, who witnessed the carnage in Bourke Street from his position in one of the police cars chasing Mr Gargasoulas, said that until the maroon Holden Commodore mounted the footpath he believed the accused was just an "attention seeker".

The detective went on to describe what it was like to follow behind Mr Gargasoulas as he sped up and hit pedestrians.

"At that stage, that was when it was clear that people had no chance of getting out of the way and we were in a very bad situation.

"I recall seeing someone probably go about nine metres in the air. At that point, he was clearly going very, very fast.

"Certain [victims] stood out to me at the time, and they still do to this day. There was just so many people being hit, but there was ones that were very clearly ... clearly struck."

Bourke Street on Friday, January 20, 2017.

Bourke Street on Friday, January 20, 2017.Credit:Justin McManus

During the testimony, Mr Gargasoulas remained motionless, his head facing downwards as he read a book on Australian constitutional law sitting on the table in front of him.

The court heard Mr Gargasoulas was planning to take the stand in his own defence to provide a reason for his actions.

The 28-year-old, dressed in shiny black track pants, a tight fitting white collared shirt and
sneakers, began nodding as his defence barrister Dr Theo Alexander foreshadowed the move in his opening address.

"Mr Gargasoulas, for better or for worse, is absolutely committed to his explanation," Dr Alexander said.

He did not describe what that explanation would be.

Dr Alexander said Mr Gargasoulas was clearly "not a well man", but that his client believed he had "very important reasons" for what happened in Bourke Street.

Director of Public Prosecutions Kerri Judd, QC, and Dr Alexander both told the court the facts of the case - including Mr Gargasoulas’ identity as the driver of the stolen car - were not in dispute.

As part of her opening argument, Ms Judd screened CCTV and other video footage showing Mr Gargasoulas striking pedestrians along Bourke Street.

There were audible gasps in the courtroom as the footage was played. Some relatives of the victims chose to leave the court before it was screened.

Ms Judd later described how each of the 33 victims came to be in the street that day and the circumstances under which they were struck, and injured or killed.

"He deliberately drove into pedestrians. In a period lasting only a minute the accused left a trail of death and carnage," Ms Judd said.

Yosuke Kanno, 25, was struck outside Amart Sports. Thalia Hakin, 10, was with her family walking towards the RACV Club when she was hit.

The others killed were three-month-old Zachary Matthew-Bryant, Bhavita Patel, 33, Jessica Mudie, 22, and Matthew Si, 33.

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The court was told witnesses described Mr Gargasoulas’ conduct as "relentless" and he "just mowed people down".

The prosecution also outlined what Mr Gargasoulas did in the days and hours before the Bourke Street attack.

On January 17, Mr Gargasoulas told an associate that if he was chased by police again he would keep driving and start running people over.

The following day he stole the maroon Holden Commodore from Windsor.

Then, in the early hours of January 20, Mr Gargasoulas and his brother Angelo got into an argument at their mother's apartment.

Mr Gargasoulas followed Angelo into the street and attacked him with a large kitchen knife.

Believing he had killed his brother, Mr Gargasoulas went to the Gatwick Hotel in St Kilda where he told an associate: "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."

Watch me, you'll see me tonight on the news.

James Gargasoulas

The court heard Mr Gargasoulas had been using ice the day before the incident and that he had been a user since 2016.

"At the time of the offences, Mr Gargasoulas was in a drug-induced psychosis," Dr Alexander told the court.

However, he noted that drug use does not amount to a defence to the charges.

"This is sad, tragic and emotional case," he said.

Justice Mark Weinberg addressed Mr Gargasoulas’ drug use during the instructions he gave to the jury: "You should know, and I will tell you in more detail ultimately, 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."

The trial continues on Friday.