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News in 5: Accused Bourke St attacker's texts to police; US shooter kills 12; Toll of loneliness.

-With AAP

1. “Don’t do this.” Policeman’s text exchange with accused Bourke Street attacker before pedestrian deaths.


A policeman sent a series of pleading text messages to the accused Bourke St attacker, James Gargasoulas, moments before he allegedly killed six people and injured dozens by driving through Melbourne’s bustling shopping strip.

Police witness and long-time Melbourne detective Senior Constable Murray Gentner told the court Gargasoulas was an “attention seeker”.

In text messages between the two on the day of the rampage, he said Gargasoulas believed he would “either die in jail or die trying to run from the boys”.

“I sent a text saying ‘don’t be silly, I’ll help you fix everything’,” Snr Const Murray said.

As reported by The Age, he believed he could stop Gargasoulas because he had built a rapport with him during previous interactions.

He sent a text at 1.04pm saying “You have to call me now”.

At 1.19pm the detective said: “I’m four metres behind you. Stop.”

A minute later he pleaded: “I’m telling you, you’re making a big mistake”.

Over the following minutes, Snr Const Murray sent a flurry of messages including: “Stop please. Stop for me.”

Gargasoulas responded to the messages, referring to himself as a “saviour” and stating that the planet would be destroyed by a comet.

Only moments before Gargasoulas turned into Bourke Street, the officer made a final plea: “Don’t do this. Meet me. Stop doing this. Stop.”

He then followed Gargasoulas down Bourke St as pedestrians were thrown up to nine metres in the air.

“There was just so many people being hit. There were ones that were very clearly being struck,” he said, pausing to blink back tears.

As Gargasoulas’ car stopped, the detective pulled his gun and intended to “neutralise him”. He was tasered and shot at twice – hit once – by other officers as arrested.

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Gargasoulas plans to tell a jury his reason for the 2017 attack, AAP reports.

The 28-year-old mostly agrees with a prosecution case against him over the January 20 violence but has pleaded not guilty to six charges of murder and 27 of reckless conduct endangering life.

“Mr Gargasoulas, for better or for worse, is absolutely committed to his explanation,” lawyer Theo Alexander told a Supreme Court jury on Thursday of his client’s plan to take the witness stand.

Gargasoulas has a mental illness, but has been found fit to stand trial, and was in a drug-induced psychosis after using ice at the time of the rampage.

Dr Alexander said neither element defended the events outlined to the court by the prosecution, little of which he will dispute.

Director of Public Prosecutions Kerri Judd QC played graphic footage of the rampage to the courtroom, which was packed with victims and families.

There were audible gasps as the footage showed the first of 33 pedestrians mowed down, followed by flying bodies.

He drove under shop awnings, where the number of pedestrians was greater, she noted.

The car eventually stopped, due to mechanical fault and being rammed by a police car.

Those killed were three-month-old Zachary Matthew-Bryant, Tahlia Hakin, 10, Yosuke Kanno, 25, Jessica Mudie, 23, and 33-year-olds Matthew Si and Bhavita Patel.

The trial continues.

2. A former Marine opened fire on a crowd of young people at a California bar, killing 12.

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A US Marine Corps veteran opened fire on a crowd of mostly college students and young adults dancing at a country and western bar in a suburb of Los Angeles, killing 12 people including a sheriff’s deputy.

Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean named the suspect as Ian Long, 28. Dean told a news conference Long had likely taken his own life.

He said he appeared to have shot at random, using only a Glock .45-calibre handgun. There was no known motive.

An unknown number of people were wounded in the shooting at the Borderline Bar and Grill, a popular venue with college students and young adults in the suburb of Thousand Oaks. Wednesday was dubbed “College Country Night”.

Dean said there were six off-duty law enforcement officers from various agencies in the bar when the shootings occurred and some survivors said the law enforcement officers stood in front of them to protect them.

“It’s a horrific scene in there,” Dean said earlier. “There is blood everywhere and the suspect is part of that.”

It was the third mass shooting in the US in under two weeks, six days after the death of two women at a yoga class in Tallahassee, Florida and 12 days after a gunman killed 11 worshippers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Jerry Nadler, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said lawmakers would get to work on legislation including universal background checks when the House of Representatives convenes in January with a Democratic majority.

“We must find a way to stop the senseless, and many times preventable killings that are robbing our country of innocent lives,” he tweeted.

President Donald Trump, who has resisted a surge in calls for tougher gun controls since 17 students were shot dead at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida earlier this year, said on Twitter that he had been “fully briefed on the terrible shooting in California”.

“Great bravery shown by police,” Trump tweeted. “God bless all of the victims and families of the victims.”

3. “Maybe they were worried we’d win the election,” Malcolm Turnbull tells Q&A.

Malcolm Turnbull says the Liberals who brought him down might have been worried he would win the next election.

That’s one of the only explanations he’s got for the August coup that saw him dumped as prime minister, as internal polling showed the government leading in marginal seats.

“We were doing the best we had done since the 2016 election, as it happened,” he told the ABC’s Q&A on Thursday night.

“Maybe they were worried we’d win the election. Maybe they were not worried we’d lose it – maybe they were worried we’d win it.”

He named Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, Health Minister Greg Hunt, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, and former prime minister Tony Abbott as the coup leaders.

But Mr Turnbull takes Scott Morrison at his word that he wasn’t involved in the coup to bring him down as prime minister, despite speculation Mr Morrison used his supporters to bring on a spill.

“I take Scott at his word. The insurgency was led by Peter Dutton, was obviously strongly supported by Tony Abbott and others,” Mr Turnbull told the ABC’s Q&A on Thursday night.

Mr Turnbull said Mr Morrison took advantage of a situation others created.

“That is how he’s presented the circumstances himself and I’m not in a position to contradict that or question that,” he said.

Mr Turnbull also said a “messy week” just before the Wentworth by-election killed off the coalition’s majority, not his lack of campaigning on the ground.

“My judgment is that (Liberal candidate) Dave Sharma would have won the election had it been held the Saturday before,” he said.

The Coalition had a number of scandals in that final week, including senators accidentally voting for a white supremacist One Nation motion and a plan to move an embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Mr Turnbull says he believed campaigning in Wentworth would have been “unhelpful” to Mr Sharma’s prospects.

“It also frankly, would not have been very helpful for me maintaining my own peace of mind, after an event like this, it’s very important to look after yourself and your family,” he said.

4. Chronic loneliness is on the rise in Australia, study finds.

Helping lonely Australians build friendships could be good for their health, a new study has found.

The news comes as a survey of more than 1600 Australians found loneliness has strong links to poorer quality of life and physical wellbeing.

The Australian Loneliness Report, released on Friday in time for Psychology Week, found people with higher loneliness levels reported more physical health symptoms including sleeping difficulties, headaches, stomach complaints, nausea, colds and infections.

The research, by the Australian Psychology Society and Swinburne University, also shows nearly 55 per cent of the population feel they lack companionship at least sometimes, with the number highest in young adults (62 per cent) compared to seniors (46 per cent).

Swinburne’s Michelle Lim said chronic loneliness was on the rise in Australia and the findings highlighted the importance of establishing meaningful relationships.

“If you don’t know where to start when it comes to making new friends, focus on the relationships you already have,” Dr Lim said.

“Quality is more important than quantity. Strengthening existing relationships and building intimacy is important.”

Society president Ros Knight said everyone benefited from connecting with others.

“Whether it’s family, friends, neighbours, people we work with, or the strangers we meet, social connections make our lives richer. They are vital for good health,” she said.

Britain recently appointed a minister for loneliness to tackle the isolation felt by more than one in 10 people in the UK.

Victorian MP Fiona Patten believes the state should follow in the footsteps of Britain and introduce a minister of loneliness to improve the health and lives of isolated community members.

5. Queensland’s response to the recent spate of shark attacks to be discussed.

Queensland’s government will try to work out how best to prevent swimmers being mauled by sharks in the Whitsundays at a special meeting with experts in the region.

It comes after Daniel Christidis, 33, died on Monday after being bitten by a shark at Cid Harbour on the first day of a yachting holiday with friends and colleagues.

It was the third serious attack there in the past two months after Tasmanian woman Justine Barwick and Victorian 12-year-old Hannah Papps were bitten in separate incidents in September.

Tourism Minister Kate Jones and Fisheries Minister Mark Furner will meet with local tourism operators and marine experts, as well as the Whitsundays council, in Airlie Beach on Friday.

Putting in drum lines to catch sharks has already been ruled out as potentially giving people a false sense of security, despite accusations from the opposition the government is risking lives.

The government’s only response to this tragedy has been a talkfest,” Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said on Thursday.

“Why does the Whitsundays not have a shark control, program? It’s good enough on the Gold Coast, it’s good enough on the Sunshine Coast, it’s good enough for areas like Mackay.”

The LNP opposition wants a parliamentary review in the wake of the incidents.

Mr Furner said the shark control program elsewhere was “highly successful” but there are no plans to extend it.

The government is installing signs warning people not to swim at Cid Harbour.

6. Conjoined 15-month-old twins are expected to undergo separation surgery today.

Conjoined Bhutanese twins Nima and Dawa are expected to undergo life-changing separation surgery in Victoria after weeks of preparation.

Surgeons at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital are confident the operation will go ahead on Friday, with the 15-month-old girls thought to be strong enough for the six-hour procedure.

The operation has previously been postponed after last-minute checks revealed the sisters were not ready.

Head of paediatric surgery Dr Joe Crameri, who is leading the delicate procedure, is due to provide details of the surgery on Friday morning.

The operation will involve 18 medical staff, with each girl designated a separate team to care for her in theatre, plus nursing and anaesthetic support teams.

The sisters, who were brought to Australia with their mother in October, are joined at the torso and share a liver. It is also possible they share a bowel.

The procedure and recovery are expected to cost at least $350,000 and the state government has offered to pay the bill.

Other funds raised will go towards their rehabilitation and return home.

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