One hot day in December 1987, Vitkovic went to the University of Melbourne with murderous intent, but his first intended target was not on campus. So he proceeded to Queen St in the city with a sawn-off shotgun in the bag and entered the offices of the Australia Post building. Apparently Vitkovic wanted to murder a second old school friend who worked in the building, and then to take out as many others as possible.
Vitkovic went from floor to floor, randomly shooting at targets in the elevators or in offices. On entering the fifth floor office where his intended friend-victim worked, Vitkovic began to target fleeing/hiding workers. He then took an elevator to the 11th floor, to the Australia Post Philately security section, killing 3 more victims. He ran up the stairs to the computer training centre, cornering and killing 3 office workers at their desks and wounded three others.
A wounded male office worker tackled Vitkovic while another wounded man wrestled the rifle from him. A wounded female worker took the rifle and hid it in a fridge. This was where massacre ended. Vitkovic crawled through an open window, climbing onto an external ledge of the building. One brave worker held the murderer by the ankles, to prevent his escape, but Vitkovic kicked free and fell to his death.
At the end of the day (8th Dec 1987), the Queen Street massacre resulted in nine fatalities, including the killer himself, and five serious injuries. The victims, who all died of gunshot wounds, were aged between 19-38!
Remembering that guns in Australia were not gathered up, destroyed and made illegal by Parliament until 1996, Vitkovic legally obtained a shooter’s licence in mid Sept 1987. When asked at that time why he wanted a licence, Vitkovic stated "I desire to go hunting". He purchased the rifle on lay-by, finally collecting it 21st October 1987. Prior to the shooting Vitkovic had illegally modified the .30 M1 Carbine, virtually changing it to a hand gun. It was loaded with jacketed ammunition.
The intended friend-victim and Vitkovic had been friends for several years. After Vitkovic took the rifle out of lay-by and took it to the friend's home to show off, he pulled out his rifle and tried to pull the trigger. Vitkovic explained to the friend he had become very depressed and embittered after injuring his leg playing tennis, followed by a failed operation to repair the damage.
After the massacre, Vitkovic's personal diary was read to the inquest. Earlier entries catalogued his sexual problems which Vitkovic linked to an incident when he was 8. He was forced to undress in a school locker room where friends made fun of his uncircumcised penis. "After this nudity was a dirty word for me," Vitkovic wrote. "Since the age of 12 I knew that normal sex was not possible for me and I avoided girls completely until I was 19." And "I am the odd man out, there's no doubting it".
In the diary he also apologised to his family for his planned actions. Among his comments to his sister he wrote "It's time for me to die. Life is just not worth living." The final diary entry, written on the day of the shooting, read "Today I must do it, there is no other way out."
The Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology Prof Adam Graycar noted: In his diary, Vitkovic also confided this advice "Look for people with a history of rejection, loneliness and ill treatment who also have a fascination with guns and you won’t go wrong". The inquest exposed the tortured mind of a young man who saw himself as a failure, inadequate and lonely, tormented by violent fantasies and finally suffused with hatred. Graycar noted the killer sought refuge in erotic and violent books and videos, and cultivated a morbid interest in firearms. Which he obtained with a minimum of fuss!!
On 8th October 1987, two months earlier, Vitkovic had been psychologically tested by the Church of Scientology for his depression and interest in killing. Joe Dickson, counsel assisting the court, said that Vitkovic had brooded over the results of the Scientologists’ tests. The voluntary worker, not a psychologist, believed Vitkovic was extremely depressed and disturbed; she could recall only one other personality test having a worse result. She did not refer Vitkovic to a psychiatrist but suggested he enrol in the “Ups and Downs in Life Course” run by the Scientologists.
Forensic psychiatrist Dr Alan Bartholomew said Vitkovic was criminally insane at the time of the shooting. Bartholomew indicated that though revealing that Vitkovic was suffering a serious mental condition (schizophrenia), the Scientologist's interventions did not result in him being treated by a psychiatrist. Thus it was not the contact with Scientology by itself that made a disturbed man into a killer; the problem was that they knew/suspected he was schizophrenic and dangerous, and took no responsible action.
Frank Vitkovic's unpretentious weatherboard suburban house.
The neighbours thought he was a normal young man.
Photo credit: HWT library
Dr Bartholomew said Vitkovic had identified with Rambo and the Hoddle Street massacre. [The Hoddle St killings by Julian Knight, only 4 months earlier in Aug 1987, resulted in the gun deaths of 7 people in Melbourne, and serious injury to 19 others]. A search of his room after the killings revealed that Vitkovic kept press clippings of the Hoddle St massacre - he clearly admired Knight’s successful murder rate.
The Queen Street and the Hoddle St massacres happened before guns in private hands were largely criminalised across Australia. But now in 2016 some right wing members in Parliament want to reintroduce a shotgun that can fire up to eight shots in eight seconds. Allowing the Adler A110 into the country would be destroying Parliament’s anti-gun laws introduced by the Howard Government after the Port Arthur massacre of 1996. Is Queen St Mark II around the corner?