**Bourke Street driver James Gargasoulas has been found guilty of six charges of murder after deliberately ploughing into pedestrians as he drove a stolen car through the centre of Melbourne’s CBD last year.
Gargasoulas, 28, pleaded not guilty over the events of January 20 last year, when he drove a maroon Holden Commodore through the Bourke Street Mall and continued along the footpath, mowing down dozens of pedestrians.
A Supreme Court jury on Tuesday found Gargasoulas guilty of six charges of murder and 27 charges of reckless conduct endangering life, following a trial that began last Wednesday.
The jury of seven women and five men deliberated for under an hour before reaching their decision.
Gargasoulas did not react as the jury foreman replied ‘‘guilty’’ to each of the 33 charges. He yawned as he sat in the dock about five minutes before the jury came in.
People in the gallery did not react either, though before the jury came in Justice Mark Weinberg asked people to ‘‘exercise extreme restraint’’ as the verdicts were announced.
Some family members of victims wiped away tears as the verdicts were read.
Gargasoulas, who wore a white shirt open over a white T-shirt and black pants, was remanded in custody for a three-day pre-sentence hearing to start on January 29.
The verdict comes four days after restaurant owner Sisto Malaspina was killed and two other men were injured in an unrelated attack in Bourke Street, on the eastern side of Swanston Street.
Gargasoulas turned west into Bourke from Swanston shortly after 1.30pm on January 20 last year and ploughed into pedestrians until police rammed his car near the intersection of Bourke and William streets and he was arrested.
Those killed were Yosuke Kanno, 25, Bhavita Patel, 33, Jessica Mudie, 22, Matthew Si, 33, three-month-old Zachary Matthew-Bryant and 10-year-old Thalia Hakin, whose mother and sister were among the injured.
Two other children were among the 27 people injured, along with an 85-year-old woman and a pregnant woman, whose baby was unharmed.
Police had spent that morning looking for Gargasoulas and following the stolen car after he stabbed his brother Angelo.
One detective desperately sent text messages to Gargasoulas in the minutes before the tragedy in an attempt to persuade him to surrender, the trial heard.
But the driver replied in a text message he was the saviour and that Earth was destined to be hit by a comet. ‘‘I’m one man and you need an army,’’ one message said.
Gargasoulas had used the drug ice in the month before the murders, his trial heard, and was delusional and in a drug-induced psychosis when he was driving.
But his lawyers did not use mental impairment as a defence in his trial.
Justice Weinberg reminded the jury of that point on Tuesday morning, but acknowledged Gargasoulas was now mentally unwell.
‘‘Presumably he has taken the view that he could not establish the elements for that positive defence,’’ Justice Weinberg told the jury.
Gargasoulas gave evidence on Monday afternoon and said he’d had a premonition about hitting pedestrians, and also rambled about a comet hitting Earth, the Illuminati, Muslim freedom fighters, upholding God’s law and government oppression.
He also made references to last week’s Bourke Street attack and the incident last year when a car ploughed into pedestrians in Flinders Street.
When asked by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Kerri Judd, QC, if he knew he would likely kill people once he began driving along Bourke Street, Gargasoulas said: ‘‘In a sense, yes.’’
When asked what his intent was, he said: ‘‘That’s still a question to ask God.’’
Gargasoulas had wanted to read a 25-page written statement to the court but Justice Weinberg wouldn’t allow it.**