Melbourne incident driver tells police of 'mistreatment of Muslims' as investigation continues

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Police say the suspect who drove a car into pedestrians trying to cross a busy Melbourne road said he blamed 'the mistreatment of Muslims' for 'some of his activities'.

The 32-year-old driver arrested after a vehicle crashed into pedestrians along Flinders Street in Melbourne told police of "dreams and voices" in hospital.

Victoria Police Acting Chief Commissioner Shane Patton told ABC News police were continuing to investigate the motivation behind the incident but the 32-year-old man arrested attributed some of his activities to the "mistreatment of Muslims".

Mr Patton added the driver was yet to be formally interviewed and police had found no terror-related links.

Three people are in critical condition as 10 of the injured victims from the incident remain in hospital. Nine of the injured are foreign nationals, according to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

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'What occurred on Flinders Street was an act of evil': Victorian Premier
'What occurred on Flinders Street was an act of evil': Victorian Premier

A four-year-old boy with head injuries was among the 19 people injured in the incident at Flinders Street on Thursday afternoon, including the 32-year-old driver who is an Australian citizen of Afghan descent.

A 24-year-old man, who was arrested after being seen filming the incident and was found with three knives in his bag, has been released and is expected to be charged on summons with drugs and weapons possession.

The offences are not linked to the Flinders Street incident, police said in a statement on Friday.

All roads in Melbourne's CBD reopened about 2am and trams are now operating as usual.

The driver, who was arrested by an off-duty officer, is known to police following a 2010 minor assault matter, and has a history of drug use and mental health issues.

Acting Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said on Thursday night the man was on a mental health plan but was not on bail or any corrections order.

"He is still in custody, under arrest for these offences, for what we allege was a deliberate act," Mr Patton said.

A witness said the 4WD was travelling at up to 100 km/h as it hit peak hour crowds crossing Flinders Street, 11 months after six people were killed in a similar incident four blocks away in Bourke Street.

The only thing that slowed him down was him hitting pedestrians

Witness Jim told ABC TV on Thursday.

"There was no braking, there was no slowing down, he went straight through the intersection. All you could hear was the sound of the car hitting people and screams."

Those hospitalised vary in age from four to 83-years-old, including the off-duty police officer.

Nineteen people were hospitalised on Thursday, but fortunately only 10 people remained injured in hospital as of Friday. Three victims were in a critical condition.

Mr Patton told ABC News on Friday the hero off-duty officer was undergoing surgery for a finger injury.

"The off-duty sergeant, who responded very quickly, who happened to be there, he is going to be operated on this morning for an injury to his hand," he said.

"He is still in hospital. I'm told he is in good spirits and I hope to speak with him later today. Great response, great actions as with everyone who responded at the time, including all the police and emergency services."

A photo of a crashed car filmed after pedestrians were hit in Melbourne.
A photo of a crashed car filmed after pedestrians were hit in Melbourne.
SBS News

Mr Patton said there was no evidence to suggest any links to terrorism but investigations continue.

He said the man was alone in the car and accelerated as he drove on tram tracks down Flinders Street.

Police were on the scene within 15 seconds of the incident, Mr Patton said, and authorities were working to prevent such attacks. He reassured the public hundreds more police would be on the streets.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the "evil and cowardly" act has affected all Victorians but urged the public to go about their festive activities.

"At a time of the year when so many families are celebrating the end to the year, doing their Christmas shopping, making plans for what ought to be a festive season, we have seen a horrific act, an evil act, an act of cowardice, perpetrated against innocent bystanders," Mr Andrews said.

"They did not deserve this. Our city did not deserve this."

Among the injured

  • A four-year-old boy
  • A 25-year-old man
  • A 40-year-old man
  • A 43-year-old man
  • A 45-year-old man
  • An 83-year-old man
  • A 25-year-old woman
  • A 25-year old woman
  • A 30-year-old woman
  • A 35-year-old woman
  • A 47-year-old woman
  • A 58-year-old woman

Victoria Police has urged the public to share photos or images of the incident to assist with their investigation here: http://australiauploadserviceweb.cloudapp.net/

Witness account

Socrates Nicolaidis, manager of Walkers Doughnuts, told SBS News people were flying in the air.

He also hailed the bravery of the off-duty officer who was one of many first responders.

"As we were walking down to come into the store, we turned to our left and saw this SUV van going a 100 kilometres (sic) per hour and as it crossed over the intersection it started knocking people," he said.

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A witness of Flinders street incident described chaos in the aftermath.
A witness of Flinders street incident described chaos in the aftermath.

"People got pushed, flying in the air and then the car veered off to the left and hit the tram stop.

"Within a couple of seconds people were on the ground covering themselves. It was horrible."

'Despicable act'

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull addressed the nation on Friday and reiterated the incident was a cowardly act and that it should not intimidate the nation.

"Now, whatever the motivation, this was a despicable and cowardly act, but I want to reassure all Australians that this is an isolated incident," Mr Turnbull said during a press conference.

"We should continue to go about our daily lives in the way we always do, and that means spending time together with family and friends in public spaces, on the streets of our cities, at sporting stadiums, in parks, bowing out, doing our Christmas shopping.

"That is a fundamental part of our lives and it is what makes one of the many things that makes us such a great nation.

19 people were injured in the Melbourne incident.
19 people were injured during the Melbourne incident.
SBS

"We should always be cautious but we're not to be cowled or intimidated by cowardly acts of individuals who seek to do us harm in public spaces, like this."

Safety

Premier Daniel Andrews rejected the notion that Melbourne CBD is a "soft target" and said the incredible work of the police force and the instalment of bollards shows enough is being done.

"Nothing we do ... can make every space 100 per cent safe," he told 3AW radio.

"We never said we could do that. If you were to try and bollard off every set of tram tracks, you couldn't run a tram network. You might even make spaces more dangerous than they are now.

"You can't protect against every single possible threat, but you can do the things experts tell you need to happen and we have done that."

"I think enough is being done."

Anyone troubled by Thursday's events can call SANE Australia Helpline 1800 18 7263

- With AAP

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