Fatal hit-run driver ‘on parole’

12 Oct 2017 • The Australian, Australia (General News)
by Rebecca Urban

The hit-and-run death of a Melbourne nurse has ramped up the pressure on Victoria’s embattled justice system, after police issued an arrest warrant for a 20-year-old who had previously been the driver of a car involved in a fatal collision.

Sebastian Kennett, of no fixed address, is understood to have been on parole when he allegedly smashed a stolen Lexus into another vehicle in Oakleigh on Monday night, killing its driver, cardiac nurse Lynda Hansen. Speed is believed to have been a factor in the collision.

Police yesterday released an image of the man and appealed for him, or anyone aware of his whereabouts, to come forward. “It has been more than 40 hours. We have appealed for him to come forward and he hasn’t taken up that offer,” Detective Senior Sergeant Brad McArthur said. “This fellow won’t be able to go anywhere without someone recognising him. It’s a matter of time.”

Senior Sergeant McArthur declined to comment on Mr Kennett’s offending history or his parole status, however The Australian understands the suspect had been in prison where he served 11 months for a recent matter. He was released in September, with his parole period due to expire in December.

Mr Kennett is also understood to have an intellectual disability, resulting from an acquired brain injury. His Facebook page, which has since been deleted, reveals his love of cars and action films and games, such as the Fast and the Furious and Grand Theft Auto.

News of the incident was seized upon by the state opposition yesterday, with shadow attorney-general John Pesutto describing it as “just another tragic instance of a catastrophic breakdown in our justice system”.

“Lives are at risk and urgent action must be taken on parole and bail,” Mr Pesutto said, accusing Premier Daniel Andrews of failing to remedy the situation 10 months on from the Bourke Street rampage. The accused, Dimitrious Gargasoulas, was on bail at the time of the deadly attack, which claimed six lives.

“Andrews needs to wake up and see there is a crisis in our justice system in Victoria. The public has lost confidence,” he said.

Attorney-General Martin Pakula denied the government had failed to act, pointing to its review of the bail system, which was overseen by Paul Coghlan QC.

“The government has made significant changes to overhaul the bail system to make it harder than ever for people to get bail in Victoria,” Mr Pakula said. “We have already passed the first wave of bail reforms in response to his review, and we will be introducing a second stage of reforms in parliament later this year.”

Senior Sergeant McArthur said Mr Kennett had spoken to a witness at the scene, who had asked him, “are you all right mate?”, before fleeing.

“I don’t know for a fact if he was injured; I would be surprised if he wasn’t,” he said.

Ms Hansen’s family have issued a public statement saying they were “shocked and devastated” by her death.

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