A man who was arrested after doing doughnuts in his car outside Flinders Street Station told police he was inspired by James Gargasoulas.
- Police yesterday charged Blayze Pemberton-Burden after he allegedly stopped traffic on Flinders Street and stood on the roof of his car shouting at police to stop him
- A court has heard the 26-year-old told police he intentionally copied the acts of convicted murderer James Gargasoulas because they would attract attention
- The court also heard Mr Pemberton-Burden had undergone a mental health assessment in Box Hill earlier this week and was released
Blayze Pemberton-Burden is accused of driving erratically on Flinders Street on Wednesday and is facing five charges including reckless conduct endangering life.
He has no prior convictions.
His alleged actions led to a dramatic security scare in the CBD.
The 26-year-old was arrested by the Critical Incident Response Team at the intersection of Flinders and William streets at about 2:00pm after his car broke down.
Police were called to the area after receiving reports of a car that had pulled up in front of a tram at the intersection of Flinders and Swanston streets.
When Mr Pemberton-Burden was being placed in a police car, he was heard saying “Buddhist terrorism”, according to court documents.
Mr Pemberton-Burden appeared at the Melbourne Magistrate’s Court today self-represented. He has not entered a plea and has been denied bail.
The court heard Mr Pemberton-Burden told police he was aware of what convicted murderer James Gargasoulas had done three years ago and knew copying his actions would attract attention.
Gargasoulas also drove in circles outside Flinders Street Station before killing six people and injuring 27 others when he drove his car through pedestrians along Bourke Street Mall in 2017.
“He told police he was aware of the act of Gargasolous in 2017 and knew this act would attract attention,” Magistrate Andrew McKenna read from a police submission.
“He expressed themes of grandiose and being above the law and being the Messiah. He told police he wanted to spread a political message.”
The court was also told that when Mr Pemberton-Burden was allegedly standing on the roof of his car, he shouted “no one can stop me”.
‘I don’t claim to be a messiah’
The court heard Mr Pemberton-Burden had been increasingly “delusional” in the last two months and was a user of substances, although it was unclear what he was using.
Mr Pemberton-Burden denied he had mental health issues and said he was a firm atheist.
“I don’t claim to be a messiah,” he said.
He also said his actions were thought out and planned.
He had posted on Twitter multiple times over the last two days, including writing posts such as “I don’t come for peace, I come for war, Buddhism Terrorism”, and “I’ll make the holocaust look like a walk in the park, I’ll make Tiananmen Square look like child’s play”.
He will now be assessed for mental health issues while in custody.
The court heard Mr Pemberton-Burden was assessed last Tuesday at Box Hill hospital for mental health issues after he arrived appearing delusional, but was released.
Mr Pemberton-Burden’s father was in court and could be heard sighing throughout the court proceedings.
Magistrate McKenna said the accused “did not even come close” to being granted bail.
His will return to court next week.
Police admitted the actions reminded them of Gargasoulas
Victoria Police Superintendent Dan Trimble said yesterday the driver got out of the car and stood on the roof, asking for police to come and stop him.
Mr Pemberton-Burden is accused of driving in circles around the intersection before speeding down Flinders Street to William Street, where Superintendent Trimble said he stopped, turned on his hazard lights and was arrested.
Police admitted on Wednesday that the man’s actions reminded them of the behaviour of Gargasoulas before he went on to kill six people during the Bourke Street attack.
Superintendent Trimble said the man had no weapons on him but there was a backpack in the car that the bomb squad inspected and deemed safe.
He said police did not believe there were any links to terrorism.
In footage of the scene outside Flinders Street Station, a person on a scooter tried to approach the car and reached towards the passenger side door before the car drove off.
Victorian authorities have put in place multiple safety measures in Melbourne’s CBD, including bollards, in the wake of several car attacks in recent years.
In the same year, Saeed Noori killed grandfather Antonio Crocaris and injured 16 people when he drove his car into pedestrians at the intersection of Flinders and Elizabeth streets.
In November 2018, Hassan Khalif Shire Ali drove a vehicle loaded with gas bottles down Bourke Street before getting out and stabbing three people, killing restaurateur Sisto Malaspina.
An eyewitness, Russ, told ABC Radio Melbourne that when he saw the car blocking trams in the intersection, he assumed it had broken down.
“Next minute, he climbs on his roof and starts screaming and shouting something and then he slid down the bonnet and got in the car and did three doughnuts and took off in a westerly direction.
“Pretty soon there was one of the cop’s pursuit cars that went roaring down.”
Russ described the incident as a “bit scary” and said he stood behind a big pole “in case he went and did what that other guy did and you know, started running over people.”
Evelyn Hamlett was one of hundreds of city workers whose building went into lockdown during today’s police operation.
Ms Hamlett and her 200 colleagues spent the afternoon “staring out the windows” and trying not to worry.
“We saw a lot of police cars down near our building and a lot at the intersection. We saw fire trucks so we got a bit worried,” she said.
“It was all a bit scary as we didn’t know what was going on.”
Ms Hamlett was also working in the CBD during the 2017 Bourke Street attack and said the lockdown brought back memories of that day.
“[Bourke Street] is always in the back of your mind … everybody was a bit on edge,” she said.
@jkmccrann: About 10 cop cars on the scene in no time down at Flinders St.