2017: A year of heartache and mayhem

A FAMILIAR sense of dread creeps sets in soon after news breaks of yet another mass killing. It doesn't matter where in the world you are - or where the atrocity happens - it is almost always the same.

The victims were ordinary people.

In almost all cases they had not been carefully selected. The acts of horror had certainly been thought about for some time, but the victims themselves weren't even known to their attackers.

Just like you and me, they are going about their day with the usual thoughts and worries on their minds. Some on holiday, shopping, spending time with friends and family, having the time of their lives.

Then the havoc begins. A car races down Melbourne's busy Bourke St, or through crowds on a famous Spanish boulevard.

Worshippers in a Texas town where crime is rare suddenly had bullets flying all around them. Small children cowered behind pews and one family alone lost six people.

In the UK - where a wave of terror attacks have been thwarted - their luck well and truly ran out. Young people at an Ariana Grande concert where maimed or killed by a suicide bomber, while a Friday night at London Bridge was interrupted when a trio of terrorists leapt from a van after they'd run down pedestrians, and went on a stabbing rampage.

Among the eight dead were two Australians, Sara Zelenak and Kirsty Boden.

Australia was plunged into yet another terrorist nightmare when seven-year-old Julian Cadman was killed while he was enjoying the sights of Barcelona.

If we thought 2017 was going to be different from previous years, we were wrong.

The car at Federation Square just before it drove into Bourke St. Picture: Tony Gough
The car at Federation Square just before it drove into Bourke St. Picture: Tony Gough


Bourke St Mall was packed with pedestrians when the unthinkable occurred. A car allegedly driven by Dimitrious Gargasoulas raced down the street as shocked onlookers fled for their lives.

CCTV from shops captured the terrifying moment. Most managed to get to safety - but six lives were cut tragically short.

The victims were Yosuke Kanno, a 25-year-old Japanese student who was hit and killed soon after the car entered the mall, Bhavita Patel, 33, was hit at the west end of the mall, and died in hospital days later.

Sydney woman Jess Mudie, 22, was walking with colleagues when she was hit, while Matthew Si, 33, was on his way back to work when he was struck. He died in hospital later that day.

The injured were strewn along the pavement
The injured were strewn along the pavement

Thalia Hakin, 10, was struck while on her way to a concert with her mum and 12-year-old sister. Thalia died almost instantly, while her sister and mother were injured. Tragically, her mother learned of her death days later after she woke from a coma.

The youngest victim was three-month-old Zachary Bryant who was being pushed along in a pram, which was hit by the car. Zachary - described as a "perfect little baby" who lit up their lives by his heartbroken parents - was thrown onto the pavement.

Twenty-five people were hospitalised as a result of the attack.

An inquest is investigating several issues relating to the incident, including the granting of bail to Gargasoulas days before. It will also examine police pursuit guidelines, and communications between officers.

Gargasoulas 26, was charged with six counts of murder and 27 counts of attempted murder. He formally pleaded not guilty to the charges on December 15.



At first, concertgoers thought the loud bangs were just part of the show. Ariana Grande had just finished her Manchester concert and people were starting to leave.

The crowd was a real mix - young, old, children with their parents, some enjoying their first concert, while others were pumped simply for a good night out.

The bomb was detonated in the foyer area of the arena, which is a space the public can access, where some parents were waiting to pick up their children. Suicide bomber Salman Abedi was killed in the blast. He took 22 others with him, and injured 59.

One woman told BBC Radio of the horror she witnessed. "The whole building shook. Body parts were everywhere, a torso, an ear. It was the worst thing I have ever seen. Bodies were everywhere," she said.

"I can't get the picture of those bodies out of my head."

Saffie Roussos was at the Ariana Grande concert with her mum and sister
Saffie Roussos was at the Ariana Grande concert with her mum and sister

One of the tragic faces of the appalling tragedy was Saffie Roussos. The eight-year-old was at the concert with her mother Lisa and older sister Ashlee Bromwich who were both injured.

Saffie was a huge fan of Ariana Grande and was said to be "elated" to be at the concert.

On what would have been the little girl's ninth birthday, Grande posted a birthday cake emoji with the message: "Saffie, we're [thinking] of you baby."

Islamic State took credit, but it is believed the bomber largely acted alone
Islamic State took credit, but it is believed the bomber largely acted alone

When Saffie's mum Lisa woke from a coma, she said to her heartbroken husband Andrew, "She's gone, isn't she?"

Islamic State immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but it is believed Abedi largely acted alone. He was known to security services but was not viewed as a high risk.

This month, UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd told MPs: "It is conceivable that the attack might have been averted had the cards fallen differently."

Dozens of people were wounded in the Manchester Arena blast
Dozens of people were wounded in the Manchester Arena blast



By the time of the brutal attacks on London Bridge, the UK had already suffered two terrorist incidents. The Ariana Grande concert attack and the killing of five people at Westminster meant the British capital was on the highest alert possible.

Despite the ever-present danger, the events that unfolded on London Bridge and nearby Borough market still stunned the country.

Three attackers, wearing fake suicide vests, ploughed a van into pedestrians and then embarked on a stabbing rampage. They were eventually gunned down by police, but not before they had murdered eight people and injured 48 others.

The chilling moment London Bridge terrorists enter Borough Market. Picture: The Express
The chilling moment London Bridge terrorists enter Borough Market. Picture: The Express

Two young Australians were among the dead, Sara Zelenak, 21, and Kirsty Boden, 28.

Ms Zelenak, a nanny from Brisbane, became separated from a friend as they fled the attackers. Her friend believed Ms Zelenak was slowed down by the shoes she was wearing.

The pair were separated in the chaos and it is believed Ms Zelenak, who has just left the bar London Grind, was chased and killed by the terrorists.

The family of Ms Boden said the nurse died after running towards the carnage to help victims who had been mowed down and stabbed on the bridge.

"Kirsty was loved and adored by her family, friends and boyfriend. She was the most outgoing, kind and generous person who loved to help people. Helping people was what she loved to do in her job as a nurse and in her daily life,'' a statement read.

"As she ran towards danger, in an effort to help people on the bridge, Kirsty sadly lost her life."



It was during "Sangria Hour" that the terror began. The popular, tree-lined Las Ramblas was full of people sharing tapas or relaxing in the sunshine. Nothing was out of the ordinary until a white van suddenly accelerated to around 80km/h, drove over the pavement and tore through the crowds for about 500m.

Those pedestrians that could ran for their lives, but others had no time and were mowed down by the van driven by Younes Abouyaaqoub. He fled the scene and was killed in a shootout with police four days later.

Witness Aamer Anwar told Sky News: "All of a sudden, I just sort of heard a crashing noise and the whole street just started to run, screaming," he said. "I saw a woman right next to me screaming for her kids."

Julian Cadman was killed in the Barcelona terror attack. Picture: Justin Lloyd
Julian Cadman was killed in the Barcelona terror attack. Picture: Justin Lloyd


One of the families on Las Ramblas was from Sydney. Julian Cadman was with his mother Jumarie "Jom" Cadman when they were both hit by the van. In the aftermath Julian's family clung to the hope he could be lost in a hospital somewhere. It wasn't to be - he was eventually confirmed as one of the 13 victims.

In a statement his family paid tribute to their "cheeky" boy.

"He was so energetic, funny and cheeky, always bringing a smile to our faces. We are so blessed to have had him in our lives and will remember his smiles and hold his memory dear to our hearts."



The United States has again set a new grim record for a mass shooting, with a fresh titleholder for the most deadly massacre in US history. Once again, the year ends with the world watching the American reaction to a series of absolutely senseless deaths.

With 58 dead and 500 wounded, the shooting spree at the Route 91 Harvest Festival was the worst ever. Gunman Stephen Paddock was staying on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and smashed the windows of his hotel room to give him a vantage point of the crowds below.

Video from the music festival shows confused concertgoers running and throwing themselves on the ground as gunfire can be heard from overhead.

The shooting lasted more than five minutes. In scenes of sheer panic, people clambered over fences and each other to escape. Many survivors later told of the terror they felt as the shots kept coming.

A SWAT team forced its way inside the hotel room. Paddock had killed himself, but his deadly arsenal was left for the world to see. Inside, police found 19 rifles. Two were positioned on tripods in front of the smashed windows.

Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo later said Paddock had a "narcissistic personality … he was going through probably some bouts of depression".

For days afterwards, heartbreaking stories emerged. One involved best mates Adrian Murfitt and Brian MacKinnon who were catching up at the festival when the killing began.

Mr MacKinnon told of his friend's horrifying final moments. "We were taking a picture and it (the bullet) went through his neck."

Many people did their best to save him. "There's a lot of amazing people - there was nurses, doctors, firemen. Everybody who was at that concert really jumped on it, did everything they could. We just couldn't save him."



No church in the US had ever seen anything like what happened inside the First Baptist Church. The small Texan town of Sutherland Springs is a quiet place with little serious crime. But on the morning of November 5, that peace was shattered when Devin Patrick Kelley burst into the church.

The 26-year-old wore a black mask a white skull on it and a bulletproof vest. He was carrying a rifle. His target was his mother-in-law. She wasn't in the congregation that day, but Kelly began shooting anyway.

The bloodshed inside was so bad that virtually every person was either killed or shot. Mothers died huddled over their children, others had no chance to react at all.

Annabelle Pomeroy was killed in the church. Her father was the pastor, but he was out of town on the day of the massacre
Annabelle Pomeroy was killed in the church. Her father was the pastor, but he was out of town on the day of the massacre

Not that there was anywhere to go. Kelley made sure of that, shooting indiscriminately before leaving the church.

Outside, local man Stephen Willeford heard the shooting, grabbed his gun and confronted Kelley.

"I know I hit him," he said. "He got into his vehicle and he fired another couple rounds through his side window. When the window dropped, I fired another round at him again."

He and another man chased Kelley in his SUV for a short distance until it stopped in a ditch. Police found Kelley had killed himself after making a final phone call to his father to say he wasn't going to make it.

As the families and friends of the victims of this year's atrocities try to rebuild their lives, we can only hope for far fewer of these incidents in 2018.

News Corp Australia

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