“I am very sorry about what happened,” said Benjamin Glenn Hoffman, 45, on Friday as he faced Darwin Local Court after being charged with the killing of four people in the worst mass shooting in the Northern Territory’s History.
“I do need help, I’ve asked for help,” he said, appearing via video link from prison.
He was charged with four counts of murder by Northern Territory police, as well as two counts of reckless endangerment causing serious harm and one charge of criminal damage following Tuesday’s rampage across Darwin’s inner-city suburbs. Further charges will be laid at a later date.
Sisois, respected in the community
Among his victims was Greek Australian roof tiler Michael Sisois, 57, who was shot dead after a brief altercation with the suspected gunman outside the Buff Club at 6pm.
It is believed that they both had worked together for a Greek Australian employer, that was forced to fire Mr Hoffman due to his poor attendance record.
The two men had known each other since January when Sisois had befriended the suspected gunman at his workplace.
The death of Sisois has filled the Greek Australian community of Darwin with grief, and about two dozen of his friends and family members went to the Buff Club to lay flowers in his memory at the parking lot where he was killed. They described him as a “humble and harmless” man.
An avid fisherman, he arrived in Darwin from the island of Kalymnos in 1970 with his parents and six siblings.
In a cruel twist of fate, his sister, Niki Voukelatous, had also been shot dead in Blackburn South in Victoria in 1987.
Brother Vince was outraged that he had lost a second sibling due to gun violence.
“It has to be changed, something, otherwise we will have to have guns to go out and protect ourselves, cowboy-style like the old days,” he told the ABC.
“Never happen to Darwin, I’ve been here half a century… never done anything bad.”We’re good citizens, we’re hard workers… two people from my family [killed who] come here for a normal life, not to leave our bodies here before [our time].”
His nephew, Charlie Mallis, told reporters that he should have been watching the State of Origin.
Four victims, two known to gunman
The alleged gunman was seen by witnesses to have been armed with a pump-action shotgun, and a Hilux ute taken from the company where he used to work.
Other victims were Nigel Hellings, 76, who was killed at the Gardens Hill Crescent and Lebanese taxi driver Hassan Baydoun 33, killed at the Palms Motel. His final victim, Rob “Kiwi Bob” Courtney, 52, may have saved others as the security guard at the Mindil Beach Casino managed to stab the alleged murderer at least twice before his own life was ended. Specialist police from the tactical response group tasered the alleged shooter and wrestled him to the ground, kicking away his shotgun and arresting him at the corner of McMinn and Daly streets next to a car he was driving.He later underwent surgery in hospital for wounds he had incurred.
It is now believed two of the victims were known to the alleged shooter who is understood to have been searching for a man called Alex, who he believed was in a secret relationship with his girlfriend.
He was known to the police
Earlier in the day, Mr Hoffman had been caught on camera speeding at Coolalinga and Pinelands. Police were called to investigate, and attended an address at Humpty Doo where it is understood he went.
At the time, there was nothing that gave rise to anything suspicious when he was pulled over.
NT Commissioner for Corrections Scott McNairn confirmed the man had been released on parole in January after being sentenced to six years jail, with a non-parole period of four years and was wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet.
He was already facing a charge of attempted sexual intercourse without consent and had been due to face court on Thursday.
He had previously breached parole for breaking curfew, for which he was given a 14-day custodial sentence, the commissioner said.
He had also undergone random drug tests, which he passed, and he was wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet.
A man who served time with Hoffmann said he had severe mental health problems and “should have been in an institution” rather than out on parole.
Specialist police from the tactical response group tasered the alleged shooter and wrestled him to the ground, kicking away his shotgun and arresting him at the corner of McMinn and Daly streets next to a car he was driving.
The Northern Territory government has ordered a review of the 103 people currently on parole following the shooting.
On Wednesday, Hoffmann’s brother, Clinton Hoffmann, released a statement on behalf of the suspected gunman’s family expressing condolences towards all those affected by the shootings.