In 1987 Melbourne law student Frank Vitkovic rampaged
through an Australian Post Office building killing 8 and injuring 17
before leaping to his death from the 11th floor.
Frank Vitkovic (c. 1965 - December 8, 1987)
was an Australian mass murderer responsible for the Queen Street
At 4:00 P.M. on December 8, 1987, Vitkovic, a former
law student at Samaritan Catholic College in Preston, Melbourne,
Australia, walked into a building in Melbourne's Queen Street holding a
brown paper bag and carrying a sawed-off M1 carbine.
He entered the fifth floor offices of the
Australia Post, pulled a sawn-off shotgun from the bag and began
firing at fleeing workers, killing a young woman office worker. Vitkovic
went from floor to floor, randomly shooting at targets in the elevators
or in offices.
On the twelfth floor, Vitkovic's gun was wrestled
away from him by an office worker named Frank Carmody. The weapon was
immediately hidden in a refrigerator by another worker.
Vitkovic then broke a window on the floor, and
despite attempts by postal workers to save him, he jumped to his death
on Queen Street.
The Queen Street
massacre was a tragedy that resulted in the deaths of 8 people, and
serious injury to 5 more, as well as severely traumatising many many
more individuals, on the afternoon of December 8, 1987.
The massacre occurred
at the offices of Australia Post when, at around 4:00pm, former law
student, 22 year old Frank Vitkovic, walked into the building in
Melbourne's Queen Street holding a brown paper bag and carrying a
The motivation for the
massacre was Vitkovic's desire to murder a former school friend who
worked in the building, and then to take out as many others as possible
before ending his own life. Earlier that day he had travelled to the
University of Melbourne with the same murderous intent, but his intended
target was not on-campus, thus he proceeded to Queen Street.
On entering the fifth
floor office where the second intended victim worked, Vitkovic pulled a
sawn-off shotgun from the bag and began firing at fleeing workers,
killing a young woman office worker. The friend chosen as the original
target escaped unharmed. Vitkovic then moved from floor to floor, where
he walked through office areas picking his targets randomly, shooting
some workers at close range execution style as they cowered under their
desks, as well as murdering those in the elevators.
The massacre ended on
the 12th floor, when the gun was wrested from Vitkovic by office worker
Frank Carmody, and hidden in a refrigerator by another worker. Vitkovic
then lunged for a broken window and plunged to his death (although some
reports indicate that he was pushed). Carmody was recommended for a
bravery award after his actions in disarming the killer.
Minister Race Mathews and Attorney General Jim Kennan also witnessed the
event from a building diagonally opposite while gathered for a meeting.
The murderer's death
was also viewed by many who had barricaded themselves inside the 18
floors of the Australia Post building, because the building opposite was
a mirrored glass building. All these workers were barricaded in their
offices from 4:00pm until 8:00pm ... they had heard gunshots echoing up
the stairwells around 4:00pm and, at first believing that the philatelic
section was being robbed, had been told by management to barricade
themselves in the safest of their offices.
All these people had
no knowledge of what was really occurring, and their only information,
over these four hours, was misinformation from televisions in their
offices - television news services were reporting that many gunshots had
been heard, that people were barricaded in their offices, that scores of
people may have been murdered or might lay dying, and that police were
not entering the building because of the possibility of organised
The police only
entered the building around 8:00pm, after the murderer had thrown
himself to his death. During these four hours, many people were severely
traumatised, and continue to suffer debilitating post traumatic stress
disorder to this day.
The Queen Street massacre was a spree killing
suicide that occurred on December 8, 1987 at the Australia Post offices
at 191 Queen Street in Melbourne, Australia. The attack resulted in nine
fatalities, including the perpretrator, and five injuries.
At around 4:20pm Frank Vitkovic entered the building
at 191 Queen Street, Melbourne, carrying a sawn-off M1 carbine in a
brown paper bag.
Vitkovic entered the fifth floor office of the
Telecom Employees Credit Co-operative where a former friend, Con
Margelis, worked. Margelis was called to the counter and briefly spoke
with Vitkovic. Vitkovic then pulled his weapon from the bag. Margelis
ducked behind a counter; Vitkovic began firing, killing a young woman
office worker, Judith Morris. A robbery alarm was activated by a staff
member at 4.22 pm. Margelis escaped the office unharmed, and hid in the
female toilets. Vitkovic then took an elevator to the 12th floor, to the
Australia Post Philately security section. There Vitkovic shot and
injured a man and a woman, pointed his gun at a woman sitting at her
desk, only to pan his aim to the left and shoot dead Julie McBean and
Nancy Avignone. A man in the corner office on this level, Warren Spencer,
Vitkovic then ran down the stairs to level 11, firing
indiscriminately. Vitkovic charged into the computer training centre,
shooting Michael McGuire at point blank range, killing him. Vitkovic
then moved to the north east corner of the office floor, cornering
several office workers at their desks. Marianne Van Ewyk, Catherine
Dowling and Rodney Brown were fatally shot in this area, some while
cowering under their desks. Three other workers were wounded here. A
male office worker Donald McElroy (who had been shot once) tackled
Vitkovic while another man, who had been shot several times, wrestled
the rifle from him. A wounded female worker, Rosemary Spiteri, took the
rifle and hid it in a refrigerator.
Tony Gioia had tackled Vitkovic and the wounded Frank
Carmody had taken his rifle. Both men were later awarded Australia's
second-highest bravery decoration, the Star of Courage.
Vitkovic climbed through an open window, apparently
trying to climb onto an external ledge of the building. Gioia held him
by the ankles, trying to prevent his escape. Vitkovic kicked free and
fell to his death on the pavement below.
No one died in the building's lifts. Vitkovic did not
fire on police or into the street. One bullet pierced a window on the
11th floor. It was believed that around 1,000 people were in the
building at the time of the shootings. After the fall police and members
of the special operations group searched the building for accomplices.
Vitkovic had fallen at 4.27 pm; police started their
search of the building at 4.30 pm. At 5.00 pm the Special Operations
Group confirmed that the dead man on the street was the gunman and the
all clear was given for ambulance officers to enter the building to
attend to the injured.
Victorian Police Minister Race Mathews and Attorney General Jim
Kennan also witnessed the event from a building diagonally opposite
while gathered for a meeting.
- Judith Anne Morris, 19
- Julie Faye McBean, 20
- Annunziata "Nancy" Avignone, 18
- Warren David Spencer, 29
- Michael Francis McGuire, 38
- Marianne Jacoba Van Ewyk, 38
- Catherine Mary Dowling, 28
- Rodney Gerard Brown, 32
All died of gunshot wounds.
Brown was still alive when police arrived on the
scene but later died. The doctor who performed several of the autopsies
told the inquest that even had Brown been taken to a neurological unit
within 15 minutes of being shot, his chances for survival would have
been "very slight".
Frank Vitkovic was born 7 September 1965 to a
Croatian father, and an Italian mother. He grew up in the Melbourne
suburb of West Preston. He attended Redden Catholic College (formerly
Immaculate Heart College, Preston, later renamed Samaritan Catholic
College) in Preston. He started a law degree at Melbourne University in
1984 but had voluntarily discontinued that course in early 1987.
Police believed he had always intended to shoot
people in the Queen Street building. It was reported that Vitkovic had
left a note at his home; police indicated that it was not a suicide
note. Vitkovic had obtained a shooters licence and had bought the gun a
few weeks prior to the shooting. He had illegally modified the .30 M1
Carbine, virtually changing it to a hand gun. It was loaded with
Vitkovic obtained his shooting licence on 17
September 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 21 October 1987. Prior to the shooting Vitkovic
had removed the barrel and the handle of the weapon.
After the shooting a neighborhood friend of the
family said that Frank Vitkovic was an excellent student, a good tennis
player, friendly and helpful, over six feet tall and very good looking.
After the shooting, a rumour circulated that he had sought help from the
Melbourne University counselling service on the day of the shooting. The
head of law at the University, Susie Nixon, later told The Age that
while Vitkovic had once sought counselling during his career with the
law school, reports he had been at the university on the day of the
shooting were "totally unfounded". He had not left his course with
hostility and Nixon believed there was no direct link between the
shooting and his "deferral" from his course.
The coronial enquiry in September 1988 heard that
there was chaos during and immediately after the shooting and there was
uncertainty over which of the police officers present was in charge.
When ambulance men entered the building with police the police shouted
to announce their presence as lifts arrived at their destination. Police
on the floor also called out and pointed their guns in the direction of
According to Inspector Adrian Fyfe, the officer in
charge at the scene, the first police officer on the scene, a traffic
policeman, had acted appropriately. He had used his initiative to
isolate the area and had made an accurate assessment of the situation.
However Fyfe criticised this officer's "appalling" lack of knowledge of
"police command structure" for not realising who was in charge until
5.00 pm, 40 minutes after his arrival. Fyfe said the radio call sign he
used identified him as the officer in charge.
Con Margelis testified to the coronial enquiry that
he and Vitkovic had been friends for several years. Margelis said after
Vitkovic arrived to see him on 8 December he pulled out his rifle, tried
to pull the trigger and then aimed it at a female colleague and told her
not to move. Knowing that Vitkovic could not move quickly due to a bad
knee Margelis jumped over the counter and hid in the women's toilets on
the 5th floor. Margelis said he expected that Vitkovic would come after
him, leaving others in the office safe. Of possible reasons for
Vitkovic's actions Margelis said he had not seen Vitkovic in the months
prior, adding that "I can't really explain." Margelis said Vitkovic had
become depressed and embittered after injuring his leg playing tennis
followed by a failed operation to repair the damage. Margelis said he
began to see little of Vitkovic due to his depression.
Another employee of the 5th floor office said that
their colleague Judith Morris was shot as Margelis attempted to leap
over the counter: "He was after Con and Judy was in the way." This
witness described Vitkovic's eyes as being those of someone "completely
insane" and his laugh as "sick" and not human, adding that he laughed
after shooting Morris.
Officer worker Tony Gioia told the inquest he tackled
Vitkovic having just witnessed a co-worker being shot dead at point
blank range. Gioia believed he would be the next victim once Vitkovic
turned around and saw him. Gioia said during the scuffle Vitkovic lunged
for the window and struggled to get out, until he was hanging from the
ledge with Gioia holding Vitkovic by the ankles. Despite others helping
to restrain Vitkovic he struggled free and fell to the street. A woman
in an adjacent office building told the inquest she believed she saw a
man in a blue jumper throw the man onto the balcony, and then push him
out when he moved back to the window. Under cross examination she
incorrectly identified this as occurring on the building's 10th floor,
not the 11th, and stated that her building was 80 metres from the
Australia Post building.
The counsel assisting the coroner, Julian Leckie,
judged that this witness was "honest but mistaken". He said that
photographs showed Gioia was not wearing a blue sweater on the day.
Evidence showed that Vitkovic tried to jump and others tried to prevent
this. Leckie also concluded that Rodney Brown would have died from his
wounds no matter what was done.
The psychologist in charge of the team counselling
workers and their families said that the video of Vitkovic firing his
gun on the 5th floor should not be made public as it would cause
significant distress to those being counselled. He advised against
publishing a still image of Vitkovic taken from the video. Media outlets
had requested copies of the video. The coronor, Hal Hallenstein, said
the material presented at the inquest was public and had to be presented
in a public way.
A pathologist told the inquest that he found no legal
or illegal drugs or alcohol in Vitkovic's system. He also said that
Vitkovic was killed instantly from multiple injuries consistent with
falling from a great height.
The contents of Vitkovic's diary were read to the
inquest on its 12th day. The diary included apologies to his family for
his planned actions, and a suicide note. 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." Earlier entries
catalogued his sexual problems. Vitkovic linked these to an incident
when he was eight years old and was forced to undress in a school locker
room and 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." In another entry he wrote "I am the odd man out there's
no doubting it"; less than a month before the shooting he wrote: "As
Rambo said in First Blood, once you accept a problem, it's no
At the coroner's hearing on 4 October 1988, Joe
Dickson, counsel assisting the court, said that the police response was
"satisfactory, and no complaints could be made about it." He said that
police response was fast, and the decision to not send ambulance
officers into the building until it was cleared was responsible, noting
that no one died because of any delay. He said the police officer who
sent people back into the building truly believed he advised them to go
to the top floor, despite evidence that he did not. The hearing heard
that while three of the people sent back into the building had emotional
trauma, no person sent back died or was injured.
Mr Dickson said a routine practice on the 12th floor
where staff had to open a security door to talk to visitors rendered its
security measures ineffective. He said the 5th floor Telecom Credit
Union security measures were "adequate for all purposes except the visit
of a maniac." On the 11th floor, no one could have perceived the
possibility of a robbery or violence. Mr Dickson said Vitkovic's visit
to the Melbourne University counsellor in December 1986 could not be
seen to have contributed to the killings. He said that Vitkovic probably
brooded over the results of a Church of Scientology personality test
given to him 8 October 1987.
After hearing representations by counsel representing
the building tenants directly affected, the families of those killed,
and news media organisations, the coroner Hal Hallenstein refused to
suppress publication of photographs taken from a 5th floor security
video that showed Vitkovic.
Forensic psychologist Dr Allen Batholomew, agreed
that Vitkovic was criminally insane at the time of the shooting. He
described him as schizophrenic, and said Vitkovic could have identified
with Rambo and the Hoddle Street killings.
Tony Gioia and Frank Carmody were awarded the "Star
of Courage" for conspicuous bravery. Claire Chalkley and Donald McElroy
received commendations for bravery.
"That'll teach you."
allegedly screamed at a victim.
Frank Vitkovic was a pretty normal looking guy as he
entered the Australia Post building in Melbourne, Australia. Well he was
if you count wearing a fatigue jacket and carrying a high-powered rifle
as being normal.
So anyway Frank stormed his way up five flights of
stairs and then burst into the offices of a local credit union. He
didn't start shooting straight away though.
First he spoke with a man at
the front of the offices. then out of nowhere, apparently, he raised the
rifle and went off. he blew the fuck out of anything that moved. the
office workers went diving in all directions, hiding behind anything
they could find, but this didn't stop Vitkovic from picking more than a
Vitkovic ordered everyone to lie flat on the ground.
He then left this floor and walked through the rest of the building
firing indesciminatly at anyone. At one point he waited for some lift
doors to open, and as they did he let loose.
Four of the lifts five occupants were dead in seconds.
Vitkovic stroll thought the building was ended on the
10th floor where he was confronted by two 'hero's' who tackled him, and
succeeded in getting the rifle away from him. This was a bit of a bummer
for Vitkovic because it ruined his planned finalè for the day. So since
he could to the traditional "Mass murderer blow your brains
out" thing, he did the next best thing. He charged at a window,
with only one intention when he was again tackled by a security guard.
It was one of the most amusing sights in murder
history as Vitkovic was dangling out the window with only one of his
intended victims keeping him alive by hanging on to his legs. Vitkovic
could be heard screaming to be let go. "He obviously wanted to die"
pointed out one bright witness. Eventually Vitkovic was able to kick
free of his nemises/rescuer and was still cursing the world as he
plummeted 130 feet to the road below.
In the space of a few minute Frank Vitkovic had
managed to kill 8 people, which topped Julian Knights 7 victims of three
months earlier. The streets of Melbourne have never seen such fun.
The Wacky World of Murder
Frank Vitkovic kept diaries throughout
"He shot down four of my friends right in front
A female survivor tells her story.
And now I will let you read some of his Diary Entries
"you are an alien amongst your own."
"it's hard for a self conscious guy like me to
talk to girls with confidence."
"I just like violent films. I don't know why.
They make me feel better, all the violence gets me pumped up. the sound
of the gun going "POW!" It's the only fun i know."
Just before his 16th birthday
"I know one thing for certain I am hated very
much by many people, but they don't know anything of my hatred which is
twice as much as theirs . . . everyone will pay for their sins."
"People think I'm worth nothing... I'll treat
them as nothing."
"As Rambo said in First Blood, once you accept a
problem it's no longer there."
"A bullet in the right place seems to do the
December 5, 1987
"I'm geared up... I'm a steam train coming
through and everyone better get out of the way."
"Death scares me, but no so much as other people."
"When i go out people don't seem real. I don't
feel part of it. I never have really. My life is such a failure."
"The world is against me."
"The world is full of vicious cruel people."
"There should not be people like that in this
"I will punish these evil vicious cruel scum
December 6, 1987
"I can see the paths been laid out for me."
"I see those people in the city and I admire them,
and yet I hate them cos they've been the ones who've lumped shit on me
all these years. . . they have all the things I want but will never have."
"... those greedy businessmen and women in the
city... They are all pigs. And pigs always end up in the