31 December 2016

Frank Vitkovic, angry schizophrenic loser loner! I know -Let's give him a gun!!

Frank Vitkovic (1965-1987) was a 22 year old Australian man. He was born to a Croatian father and an Italian mother, and grew up in West Preston, one of Melbourne’s proud working class suburbs. He attended Redden Catholic College in Preston then started a law degree at Melbourne University in 1984, but suddenly left university in early 1987 without graduating.

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!

front page ofThe Daily Telegraph
Wed 9th December, 1987. 

So what was discovered about Frank Vitkovic, after his death? A neighbourhood friend of the family said that Frank Vitkovic was an excellent student, a very good tennis player, friendly and helpful, tall and very good looking.

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?


Andrew said...

While of course I remember it from when it happened, having it laid out neatly makes it all the more shocking. It is an excellent concluding paragraph.

Another student said...

How many years was Vitkovic at uni, studying Law? Did his legally astute lecturers, tutors and colleagues not suspect that violence was imminent?

Ann ODyne said...

'Going postal'
Wishing you a happy peaceful new year dear Hels.

Hels said...


Sep 1984 - 7 people were killed in a bikie shootout in Sydney
Aug 1987 - seven people shot dead in Melbourne in Hoddle St;
Dec 1987 - 8 people killed in Melbourne in Queen St massacre;
Feb 1992 - 4 people hacked to death at farmhouse north of Perth;
Aug 1993 - 3 people shot dead by a gunman in inner west Sydney;
Jan 1996 - 7 people shot dead in a murder-suicide in Brisbane.
Oct 2002 - 2 students shot dead at Monash Uni by another student

These catastrophes provoked a great amount of community concern and resulted in the establishment of the National Committee on Violence in 1988. But it took until 1996 for all states to subscribe to the National Firearms Agreement! John Howard may never have done another good thing in his entire career as prime minister, but he did well with gun control.

It took such a long time to get the legislation in place. What happens if Senator David Leyonhjelm and his henchmen get the legislation undone???

Parnassus said...

Hello Hels, I thought that Trump became president of the U.S., not Australia--although you can have him if you want him. After a murder, people always say that the violent attitude should have been recognized and acted upon, but this is not so easy. Many people might sublimate negative feelings with an unpleasant demeanor, but never act on it.

Despite all this, I wish you and your family a happy (and safe!) New Year and 2017.

Hels said...


most of my information came from newspaper contemporary coverage, but I can find very little about the University of Melbourne's Law School. Nigel Cawthorne's book The Most Barbaric Murders of Our Times says (p50): Vitkovic won a place in Law in 1984, lost it in 1986, returned to Law in 1987 and was thrown out of Law later that same year. He sought help from the professionals in the University Counselling Service during this period. He neither studied nor worked, after that.

Perhaps the lecturers and tutors had no formal responsibility to report a severely disturbed student, but I bet the counsellors did.

Hels said...


Spot on! That expression, "going postal", came from a series of massacres starting in the USA in 1986 in which United States Postal Service workers shot and killed managers, workers and customers in acts of mass murder at the workplace. What a perfect expression for the Queen Street massacre since a] the timing was similar to those events in the USA (1987) and b] the gunman murdered his victims inside the central Australia Post office building.

Hopefully 2017 will be safer and more peaceful.

Hels said...


In polls all over this country, Australian citizens voted between 84-86% to reduce gun ownership to the police and army, and to allow other cases only when examined and supervised eg farmers facing wild animals, Olympic shooters in training.

I assumed that once the gun legislation came into place in 1996, it would never EVER be rescinded or made ineffective. But then I assumed Clinton would be your next President. I know sod all, apparently :(

mem said...

I thank god often that I live in Australiaand not in the US I find their mania for individual rights with regard to guns amazingly selfish and totally out of step with the evidence right before them. They believe what confirms their wish to bear arms against all the evidence that this is directly associated with 30 thousand shootings per year .There are elements in our senate noww who are elected by a relatively small group if citizens who MUST be blocked from undoing some of the legislation which has made Australia avrelatively civil society . Thank you John Howard you stepped up when you had to . It was your finest hour .

Hels said...


A gunman has stormed a house party and killed at least 11 people plus himself during New Year celebrations yesterday in the SE Brasilian city of Campinas. Although Brasil struggles with high rates of crime and gun deaths are frequent in heists etc, mass murder shooting sprees like those often seen in the USA are not prevalent.

Hmmm that is exactly what we used to say in Australia, until Julian Knight, Frank Vitkovic and Martin Bryant proved that when we used to have guns, we too had mass murders. Now in 2017 a few influential people seem to have forgotten our mass murders, back in the 1980s and 90s :(

mem said...

Parnassus your comments about Trump are at the root of so much worry in the world right now unfortunately Trump is way more than your president elect .he has so much power . He and Putin between them are downright terrifying . Both elected by very broken political systems where public opinion is manipulated to their own ends .

Hels said...

mem and Parnassus

we in Australia have had some pretty shocking prime ministers, but politicians can be voted into the prime ministership by their party members and voted out just as easily.

Trump, on the other hand, has never been a politician. He will be head of state and short of impeachment, there is not a thing that the American House of Representatives can do. When his term finishes, then the electors will vote again (I hope).

Putin was originally elected Prime Minister in the normal democratic fashion. But once he was voted in as President and head of state, it all changed. He has accepted a third term as president, extended each term, dissolved the Parliament once (*cough* not unlike Australia) and issued endless Presidential decrees as needed.

What a miserable situation.

Muna said...

Putin has also had political opponents and dissidents (like Alexander Litvenko, sic) murdered.

Hels said...


you are absolutely correct, about dissidents all over the world.

But I am raising two other points. Firstly Australians assume that we have never had much of a gun culture and would not have believed such a massacre could happen here. And secondly that Vitkovic had many mental health crises - depression, schizophrenia, violent ideation and sexually dysfunction. If guns ever became legal here again, Vitkovic still would have been the least appropriate person to sell a gun to.

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Bill Fordham said...

Bryant has nothing to do with the events in the Broad Arrow Cafe. Sure, he was found emerging burnt from Sea Scape the next morning, but absolutely NOTHING ties him to the cafe. The only eye-witnesses who ‘saw’ him identified him a month later. The only eye-witness who knew Bryant and was shot, stated categorically that Bryant wasn’t the man who shot him.
No DNA either, but I digress....

Bill Fordham said...


Hels said...


Thanks for doing the reading. Except for the police and army, there is no legal reason to have a gun in this country. So the term "gun safe" is oxymoronic.

Hels said...


I have not seen any views similar to those you expressed, so I wonder if the normal court appeal processes were gone through. And if they were, was the evidence published in the scholarly or the normal newspaper outlets. Although guns in public hands will still remain illegal in Australia, I would be keen to read any appeal documents you know about. Many thanks.

Anonymous said...

8 shots in 8 seconds (Adler shotgun) is not fast. A seasoned shooter can get similar with just a break-action double barrel shotgun. Rather than blaming inanimate objects entering the country perhaps we should look at stopping some animate ones, especially ones from troubled parts of the world. Why should my tax dollars pay for people newly arriving here I have no connection to whatsoever?

Hels said...


many thanks for responding. As you probably know, I don't agree with you (re guns) at all. But I believe that almost all opinions should be listened to.

Re migration, we are all either migrants ourselves, or the children or grandchildren of migrants. If it wasn't for migration, Australia would have a very small population indeed.

Muna said...

Well said Hels. We are all. migrants indeed.