When I was 14, I moved to Melbourne to live with Mum.
Then, when he was 17, Jimmy followed.
As soon as he turned up at Mum’s, I noticed his personality had become more erratic and he began using the drug ice.
Jimmy had started an apprenticeship with a mechanic but never went.
‘They don’t have enough work for me,’ he said.
But I knew it was because he was getting high.
There was no point confronting him though, as he’d become violent.
Over time Jimmy had four children.
When I saw him with them, I got glimpses of a different side to my brother.
‘Give your daddy a cuddle,’ he’d grin.
Sadly, those occasions were rare. Jimmy continued to spiral out of control and I did my best to avoid him.
‘It’s Jimmy. It’s the way he is,’ I’d say to our cousin.
Whenever I did see him, we’d get into massive arguments. And when we clashed, he turned violent.
I’d wound up in hospital countless times with a broken jaw or because he’d knocked me unconscious.
‘I’m sorry bro, I didn’t mean to,’ he’d say after.
I was terrified of him.
And it wasn’t just me he attacked.
In early 2016, he moved back to Coober Pedy and one night he rang in a panic.
He was with his girlfriend, who was also my mate.
‘Angelo, I think I’ve just killed your friend,’ he panted. ‘I thought she was cheating on me.’
Jimmy had deliberately T-boned his car into her vehicle.
‘Get off the phone and call an ambulance!’ I yelled.
She was left with spinal injuries and spent 23 days in hospital.
She didn’t press charges and he got off.
In October 2016, and back in Melbourne, Jimmy reached a whole new level of violence and destruction.
His ice-taking was extreme and he had countless run-ins with the police, racking up offences for driving while disqualified, reckless conduct causing injury, assaulting police and escaping custody.
No-one could control him.
He attacked his girlfriend who was five months pregnant with his baby, repeatedly punching her.
Jimmy was arrested but released without charge.
He was dating multiple women and staying at their places, but sometimes he’d come round to Mum’s unit, shouting and hollering.
Extremely paranoid, he was convinced I was trying to set him up.
‘You’re working for the police, you’re trying to get me done for murder,’ he said.
None of it was true!
But then, a few weeks later, he accused my friend James of the same thing.
‘Your friend is trying to set me up with the government,’ Jimmy said on the phone.
Rushing to confront Jimmy in St Kilda, he whacked me in the face with a gun, before chucking a tyre iron at a taxi window and driving off.
‘You have to find my brother, he’s ruthless,’ I told police when they arrived at the scene. ‘It’s not just a matter of my safety, it’s random people’s.’
On January 14, 2017, he turned up once again at Mum’s place, shouting and causing disruption.
Police were called after a neighbour made a noise complaint.
Despite his previous actions and multiple charges, he was released on bail.
Then, six days later, I went to Mum’s to pick up a bag around midnight.
‘Jimmy’s not around,’ she said.
He’d been back two days earlier and beaten Mum’s boyfriend Gavin, before stealing his maroon Commodore.
We were all petrified of him.
As I went to leave the apartment, I saw Jimmy standing there with his new girlfriend, Lurinda.
My heart dropped.
‘Angelo, have you heard about the comet coming for us? We’re all going to die,’ he kept repeating.
I started running down the stairs, but Jimmy jumped in the elevator.
By the time I’d reached the front gate of the apartment block, he was right behind me.
‘Jimmy, you need to go home,’ I said, rain pouring down on us.
That’s when I noticed he was clutching a knife.
Throwing my bag on the floor, I bolted across the road, but I slipped in the rain and fell over.
The next thing I remembered was Jimmy standing over me, and the knife was on the floor.
Panicking, I went to grab it. But I couldn’t move my arm and that’s when I realised that he’d stabbed me through the chest.
Every time I took a breath, I could hear my lung wheezing from where it had been pierced.
Then, Jimmy grabbed me by the scruff of my neck and started stabbing at my head like a pineapple.
His pupils had dilated into tiny pinpricks and he looked psychotic.
I could hear a car horn beeping and Jimmy kept shouting, ‘Shut up!’
Screaming, Lurinda stepped in, trying to pull him away.
My friend Nick had been waiting in his car outside and when he screeched up beside me, Lurinda managed to push me inside.
Going in and out of consciousness, the last thing I remember is Nick carrying me into hospital as blood poured everywhere.
Waking from a coma three days later, I was surrounded by people who looked like doctors.
‘How do you feel that your brother has just murdered six people?’ they asked.
‘What the...?’ I replied.
They weren’t doctors, but journalists in disguise.
Within seconds, my sister Sesi had walked in, yelling at them to get out.
Talking to family and looking on the internet, I started to piece together what had happened.
After stabbing me, my brother had continued his rampage, driving recklessly in the car he’d stolen from Gavin.
Police chased him for hours.
Then, at around 1.30pm, he went zooming up Bourke Street in Melbourne’s CBD, recklessly driving onto the pavement and into people.
In just 55 seconds, he had hit 33 people.
Six were killed, the youngest being just three months old.
I felt sick. I couldn’t believe that someone who was that genetically close to me could do such a thing.
Jimmy was charged with six counts of murder and endangering the lives of 27 people.
Despite admitting his actions of driving recklessly, he pleaded not guilty. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia but deemed fit to stand trial at Victoria Supreme Court.
There, my brother said, ‘I apologise from my heart,’ and blamed God for his actions, stating, ‘I had permission to run people over.’
But what he did was indefensible.
On November 13, 2018, James ‘Jimmy’ Gargasoulas, 29, was found guilty of all charges.
It took the jury just over an hour to reach the verdict.
He was later sentenced to life in jail with a non-parole period of 46 years.
Only in the past two months have I felt ready to see Jimmy.
Visiting him in prison, he constantly apologised.
‘I’m sorry for what I did,’ he said.
He’s now on medication for his illness and seems deeply remorseful.
Still, I can never forgive my brother for what he did and my heart breaks for the victims’ families.
There were many times that police could have put Jimmy in jail - he was on their radar for years.
He shouldn’t have been on bail.
I really do hope that, in the future, mental illnesses are recognised and treated.
Innocent people lost their lives because of my brother and hopefully,
more can be done to prevent it ever happening again. ●
At the sentencing, Supreme Court Justice Mark Weinberg told Gargasoulas that his attack was ‘one of the worst examples of mass murder in Australian history.’
He said, ‘The horror of what you did has profoundly affected many who are here today. I do not accept you displayed any true empathy for the lives you have shattered or destroyed.’
Six people lost their lives and 27 were injured in the rampage. Those who died were:
Zachary Bryant, three months, after the pram he and sister Zara, two, were in was hit. He died the next day; his sister was left seriously injured.
Thalia Hakin, 10, was holding her mum’s hand, walking towards the RACV Club to see a magic show, when she was hit and died.
Jessica Mudie, 22, was struck on Bourke St and died almost instantly.
Yosuke Kanno, 25, was hit outside Amart Sports and died at the scene.
Bhavita Patel, 33, who worked nearby, died in hospital ten days after she was hit.
Matthew Si, 33, was hit where Bourke St meets McKillop St and died in hospital from head injuries.