Melbourne – Two days after a ten year old Jewish girl was killed in a massacre that took place at a busy shopping area in downtown Melbourne, an emotional gathering was held to honor the young victim and to pray for her family members who were also injured in the tragic attack.
Thalia Hakin, a student at Yeshivah Beth Rivkah, was one of five who lost their lives on Friday when a driver rammed pedestrians in Melbourne’s Central Business District as previously reported on VIN News (http://bit.ly/2jdG9hz ).
Police arrested 26 year old Dimitrious Gargasoulas in the attack, as reported by News Corp Australia.
Thalia, who was due to start fifth grade in a matter of days, was with her nine year old sister Maggie and her mother Nathalie at the Bourke Street Mall when the attack occurred.
Thalia was remembered as extremely popular and outgoing at a Sunday night memorial service held at the Werdiger Family Hall in Melbourne. Two of Thalia’s friends spoke at the gathering which was attended by members of the Jewish community, children in scouting uniforms and several political figures.
“She was always happy and knew how to make people smile,” said one young classmate.
Rabbi Yehoshua Smukler, principal at Yeshivah Beth Rivkah, said that Thalia and Maggie were extremely close, with Thalia frequently visiting her younger sister’s classroom. Rabbi Yisroel Raskin, director of Chabad McKinnon in southeastern Melbourne, said that the family typically attended services weekly.
“She was a sweet girl,” said Rabbi Raskin. “She was good hearted and always happy to help with community projects.”
Rabbi Daniel Rabin, president of the Rabbinical Council of Victoria, posted a picture of the smiling brown haired girl on Facebook, and speaking at the memorial service, stressed the importance of praying for all of the accident victims.
Speaking outside the service, David Southwick, a member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly said that he had placed a teddy bear at the Bourke Street memorial site in Talia’s memory earlier in the day.
“Thalia should be playing with that bear,” said Southwick. “Tonight is a show of support.”
None of Thalia’s immediate family members attended the memorial service. Her father, Tony, was said to be at the hospital with his wife and daughter.
A crowdfunding site created by Avi Yemini of the IDF Training gym in Melbourne to provide financial help for the family raised $45,000 in just two days. Both Hakin girls were students at the gym.
Yemini described the Hakin sisters as “two little girls who came to class each week with bright and warm smiles. They were always happy and bubbly and I am heartbroken to know that they have been torn apart in this most senseless and horrific way.”
Also killed in the attack were 33 year old Matthew Si and 22 year old Jess Mudie. Other fatalities who have not yet been identified include a 25 year old man and a three month old baby boy. Among the more than a dozen seriously injured are six victims who remain hospitalized in critical condition, creating concerns that the death toll may still rise.
Gargasoulas, who was shot in the arm by police during the rampage, underwent surgery yesterday and remains hospitalized under police guard. Gargoulas’ girlfriend reported that she was held hostage during the violent attack and said that Gargasoulas repeatedly proclaimed that the world was coming to an end, while announcing his intentions to run people down.
A picture posted on Facebook last month showed Gargasoulas posing in front of an armored tank accompanied by a comment reading, “this is what people mess with when They mess with me.”
Police Commissioner Graham Ashton confirmed that Gargasoulas, who went by the name “Jimmy,” was known to law enforcement and had a history of family violence, drug abuse and mental health issues. He had just been released on bail a week earlier after being apprehended for allegedly assaulting a close friend of his mother’s, despite opposition by local police.
Gargasoulas’s mother, Emily Gargasoulas, told reporters that she was horrified by her son’s actions and said that he had stabbed his younger brother in the face during a fight last Friday.
“I don’t want to be known that I’m the mother,” said Emily Gargoulas.
Addressing her son, Gargoulas added, “Go to hell and die in hell.”