An inquest into the death of Melbourne identity Sisto Malaspina, killed in a stabbing attack in Bourke Street two years ago, will examine whether it could have been prevented.
State Coroner John Cain will investigate whether the deadly attack in November 2018 near Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar, which was co-owned by Mr Malaspina for more than 40 years, was a terrorist attack.
Hassan Khalif Shire Ali, 30, was armed with two knives when he drove a ute into Bourke Street on November 9.
There were three gas bottles in the back of the ute and an explosion heard from several blocks away triggered bystanders to rush to the scene.
They were confronted by Shire Ali who fatally stabbed Mr Malaspina. Two other members of the public were stabbed and seriously injured.
Police, including two off duty officers, rushed to the scene and tried to stop the attack. Shire Ali was shot by officers and died later in hospital.
Judge Cain said Mr Malaspina’s death was a tragic loss to his family and friends, and as the public face of Pellegrini’s the Melbourne community was deeply affected by his loss.
He said the inquest was not about blaming individuals or finding guilt, but to better understand what may have contributed to the incident and whether it could have been prevented.
“We must learn from this and be better equipped in the future to potentially prevent such events occurring again,” he said.
He will consider whether Shire Ali was radicalised, what his motivations were and whether he suffered any mental illness or personality disorders at the time of the killing.
Counsel assisting Catherine Fitzgerald said Shire Ali was a known criminal offender on bail – granted by police – at the time of the attack.
He was also a national security person of interest, she said.
Shire Ali was the brother of Ali Khalif Shire Ali, who was jailed for 10 years in May this year over a plot to shoot up to 200 people in Federation Square before taking hostages on New Years Eve in 2018.
The inquest will look at Victoria Police’s response to the incident, including the adequacy of tactical options such as using batons and capsicum spray in response to a knife assault.
Judge Cain will also examine what information was known about Shire Ali to agencies including Victoria Police, Australian Federal Police and intelligence body ASIO.
At a state funeral for Mr Malaspina mourners chose to remember how he lived, rather than the circumstances of his death.
“Dad had the amazing ability to make everybody feel special,” his son David said.
“He had the amazing ability to lift one’s spirit with a greeting and that big smile – with the assistance of a bright, flamboyant shirt and ever-present cravat.”