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Monday 20 August 2018

Driver held in Melbourne incident had history of drug and mental health issues

Paramedics treat a victim after a car ploughed into pedestrians in Melbourne (Andrew Lund/Twitter)
Paramedics treat a victim after a car ploughed into pedestrians in Melbourne (Andrew Lund/Twitter)

A driver arrested after a car was driven into pedestrians in Melbourne was a 32-year-old Australian of Afghan descent with a history of drug use and mental health problems, police have said.

Victoria Police chief Shane Patton said a second man, aged 24, who was arrested after he was seen filming the incident was found to have a bag containing knives.

Investigators have found no evidence to suggest a link with terrorism and Mr Patton said they had not established any relationship between the two men.

Some 19 people were injured, four critically, when a white car was driven "in a deliberate" act at crowds outside Flinders Street station at around 4.30pm on Thursday.

The driver of the car was detained by an off-duty police officer, who was later taken to hospital with injuries not believed to be critical.

Mr Patton told a press conference the driver had resisted arrest and there had been "somewhat of a fight between them".

He added: "We have reviewed the footage and are satisfied that he was driving the car without anyone else present.

"He has be taken to hospital as a result of the incident, as has the police officer.

"He is a person known to Victoria Police. He has historical assault matters an has a history of drug use as well as mental health issues.

"We understand that was on a mental health plan and receiving treatment."

He added: "We do not at this time have any intelligence to indicate that there is a connection to terrorism."

The second man held in connection with the incident was seen filming it on a mobile phone "and also had a bag that had some knives in it", Mr Patton said, but it appears he may not be connected.

He added: "We don't yet have any relationship established between the 24-year-old man who was taking a video, who was arrested at the scene, and the driver. In fact there may be no relationship between them.

"But, obviously, at a significant scene like this he was taken into custody because of the circumstances so we can explore it. It may well be that person is exonerated from any involvement in this in the end, and that's probable at this stage."

He was not known to police, Mr Patton added.

Daniel Andrews, premier of Victoria state of which Melbourne is the capital, said four people were in a critical condition in hospital and 15 were in a stable condition.

A pre-school aged child was taken to the Royal Children's Hospital for treatment for a non-life-threatening injury.

He told the press conference the city would not be "defined by these sorts of incidents".

"I am confident that we will go about our business and we will celebrate Christmas, we will be at the Boxing Day Test, Carols By Candlelight and we will spend what should be a joyous time with people that we love," he said.

"But we will all spare a thought for those that have been touched and, indeed, ever changed by the evil and cowardly scenes in Flinders Street today."

Witnesses described seeing people "flying everywhere" as the car was driven along the street which was busy with Christmas shoppers and commuters.

Lachlan Read told the Herald Sun the incident lasted about 15 seconds.

"It was bang, bang, bang. It was just one after the other.

"The last bang the car stopped," the 20-year-old said. "There were bodies on the ground and people running up to them - it was mayhem."

Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull called it a "shocking incident", adding: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and the emergency and health workers who are treating them."

The England cricket squad and management - who are in Melbourne for the Boxing Day Ashes Test - are all safe, the England and Wales Cricket Board said.

The incident follows a spate of attacks in major cities in Europe and the US in which terrorists have used vehicles as a weapon again innocent people.

Eighty-six people were killed in Nice in July 2016 when a lorry was driven into crowds celebrating Bastille Day.

Twelve people died in December last year when a truck was driven at crowds at a Christmas market in Berlin.

Four pedestrians and a police officer were killed by Khalid Masood in the Westminster Bridge attack in March.

In June, eight people were killed and 48 injured when three terrorists ploughed into pedestrians on London Bridge then went on a knife rampage in Borough Market.

Thirteen people were killed when a van was driven down Barcelona's Las Ramblas in August, and in October, eight died in a truck attack in New York.

Press Association

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