Bourke St's 19 seconds of terror detailed

Karen Sweeney
·3-min read

Beloved Melbourne identity Sisto Malaspina died in horrific circumstances in an attack in Bourke Street two years ago, but he didn't die alone.

Surrounded by chaos and carnage, a woman knelt beside him with his head in her hands in his final moments.

"Still stroking his brow, repeating to him 'I am so sorry', she did what she could to give Sisto dignity in death," Catherine Fitzgerald told an inquest into the death of the co-owner of Pellegrini's Espresso Bar.

Mr Malaspina was one of three people stabbed in a frenzied 19-second attack by Ali Khalif Shire Ali in November 2018.

It began with an explosion caused by igniting gas tanks in Shire Ali's car.

Rod Patterson believed he was running to help the driver when Shire Ali blindsided him, stabbing him in the head with a 22cm hunting knife.

Next he overpowered Mr Malaspina, repeatedly and forcefully stabbing him. Security guard Shadi was chased down and stabbed in the neck.

Only 19 seconds had passed since the explosion.

He tried to attack police next but was shot in the chest and later died in hospital.

In a statement Shire Ali's family said they hoped the inquest would bring understanding.

"We are deeply saddened by the death of Mr Malaspina and we are acutely aware of the pain felt by his family and the community. We too feel great pain as we remain grieving the death of our loved son and brother Hassan" they said.

"We hold hope this inquest can be used to help both families understand and to identify evidence for intervention so this trauma is not repeated."

Shire Ali was on bail at the time of the attack and was a national security person of interest.

Ms Fitzgerald said officers from Victoria Police's counter-terror focused Security Intelligence Unit wanted to speak with Shire Ali about national security matters, and had planned to arrest him on November 10 over a series of escalating violent incidents.

He was suspected of an assault with a baseball bat in August, and separate attacks with a sledgehammer and a hammer in September. Shire Ali was also a suspect in the stalking of a woman and a hit-run.

Ms Fitzgerald said from the outset police treated the November 9 incident as an act of terrorism, though noted the earlier incidents had raised questions about his mental health.

"It is the view of the (Joint Counter Terrorism Team) that the attacks were committed by Hassan as he adhered to an extremist interpretation of Islam and carried out an ISIS inspired attack in continuance of that ideology," she said.

"However, an explanation for his actions and death also remain unclear."

Shire Ali's brother Ali Khalif Shire Ali was jailed earlier this year for plotting a terror attack on Federation Square in December 2018. He was in custody at the time of Shire Ali's attack.

State Coroner Judge John Cain will examine whether Shire Ali was radicalised, his motivations and any mental illness.

"We must learn from this and be better equipped in the future to potentially prevent such events occurring again," he said.

The inquest will also examine the tactical response and what was known about Shire Ali to bodies including Victoria Police, the Australian Federal Police and intelligence body ASIO.

The inquest will continue on Tuesday.

Lifeline 13 11 14

beyondblue 1300 22 4636