‘Terrible Scene:’ Mall Massacre Kills Seven; Attacker Takes Own Life
STRATHFIELD, Australia (AP) _ A man hacked to death a teen-age girl, then opened fire in a crowded shooping mall Saturday, killing six others before taking his own life as police closed in.
At least seven people were wounded by automatic gunfire in the 10-minute rampage that turned the suburban Sydney shopping center into a scene of carnage and confusion.
″Blood was everywhere. People were running frantically around. It was total chaos,″ said Constable George Kohahila.
Police said the motive for the attack was unknown and there was no indication the assailant knew any of the victims, many of whom were hit as they scrambled for cover.
″There doesn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason for it,″ said Doug Kelly, chief superintendent for Blacktown district police. ″It was a horrendous killing.″
The masked attacker - whom police identified only as a 33-year-old part- time taxi driver - shot himself on the rooftop parking garage at the Strathfield Shopping Plaza in an upper middle-class suburb west of Sydney.
Police said the man, who lived alone, had a license for the assault rifle, a Chinese-made self-loading automatic weapon. Earlier reports had said the rifle was a Soviet-designed AK-47.
Police said the dead included five women and three men, including the assailant.
A 47-year-old woman injured in the shooting died about eight hours later in nearby Concord hospital, police said.
″It’s a terrible scene in there ... terrible,″ Kelly said.
The mall - a two-story complex of small restaurants, shops and boutiques -was filled with late-afternoon customers at 3:30 p.m. (1:30 a.m. EDT), a half-hour before most stores usually close.
Witnesses said the man was sitting in a restaurant when an argument broke out. He attacked a 15-year-old girl with a machete, then turned his rifle on other patrons.
The restaurant’s owner, George Mavors, was shot in the chest as he walked from the kitchen.
One witness said the gunman appeared to pick victims indiscriminately.
″He was crazy. I saw him right in front of me,″ said 17-year-old Sotirios Farmakis, who works in a grocery store in the shopping center. ″He was running around with a big automatic silver rifle. Anyone he saw, he just shot.″
Police said the gunman, who wore a stocking cap, forced a woman at gunpoint to drive him to the parking garage, then released her.Police said he continued firing indiscriminately before killing himself.
One person was hit at a railway station about 100 yards away.
It was not clear when the man put on the stocking cap or how he managed to conceal the weapon and machete before the attack.
Police said it could be several days before they are able to interview witnesses to piece together the exact sequence of events.
Chief Superintendent Ken Moroney, acting regional commander of the South- West Police region, said the assailant had no criminal record.
One woman was shopping at a nearby grocery store when the rampage began.
″I grabbed a lady’s baby and we jumped over the railings,″ said Carolyn Healey, 38. ″We were running through here but we could still hear the shooting as if he was coming after us.″
The multiple killing was the worst in Australia since December 1987, when Frank Vitkovic shot dead eight people in a downtown Melbourne building and plunged to his death from the 11th floor.
In August 1990, a man killed five people with a shotgun in Sydney. Paul Anthony Evers, 35, is awaiting trial.