Hoddle Street Massacre
For most Melburnians, 9 August 1987 was like any other night. However, those driving on Hoddle Street, Clifton Hill, shortly after 9.00pm, found themselves in the midst of what would later be known as the Hoddle Street Massacre. Six people were shot dead and 19 others wounded before the night was out.
The killer was former Australian Army officer-cadet, 19-year-old Julian Knight. Knight had been expelled from the Royal Military College, Duntroon months before for stabbing a sergeant at a Canberra nightclub, and was released on bail pending trial.
Knight was said to be depressed over the end of his military career, but when he had earlier appeared at a police station to apply for a shooter's licence on his 18th birthday, he was calm and polite. Three months later he had his licence, as well as a pump-action shotgun, a .22 rifle and an automatic M14 military-style automatic rifle, the weapons he used on his killing spree.
On the night of the attack, Knight had been drinking at a pub. After about ten pots of beer, he collected his guns and ammunition from home and positioned himself on a raised platform behind a billboard at the corner of Ramsden and Hoddle streets, Clifton Hill. From there he fired at people driving along the street.
Many people thought their cars had backfired, or that a car in front had thrown up a stone and shattered their windscreen. When they realised they were being fired at, many drivers took shelter in a nearby petrol station, where staff called the police.
When police arrived, it was still very hard to see where Knight was firing from, and over the next two to three hours he continued to wound and kill passers-by. One witness reported seeing a victim's body on the road, shaking as Knight shot them again and again.
After a half hour police chase through the streets of Melbourne, during which Knight repeatedly shot at police officers, squad cars and a police helicopter, he was eventually cornered by a detective and surrendered. Knight was given a life sentence and is still in prison, where he is said to be largely unapologetic:
... [Knight] was like a young kid who had been on an adventure and been caught doing something naughty. He seemed to be interested in what was happening to him but not concerned. For a nineteen-year-old, he seemed very immature.
– Detective Graham Kent
Haddow, P 1998, Hoddle Street – the ambush and the tragedy, Strategic Press, Melbourne, Vic.
The killings remain one of the bloodiest massacres in modern Australian history.