Victoria’s former top cop defends police handling of Bourke Street driver

Related Story: The lives changed forever by a moment on Bourke Street

On the first anniversary of Melbourne's Bourke Street tragedy which claimed six lives, former police commissioner Christine Nixon has spoken out for the first time in support of officers who followed the car through the city.

Like many others, Ms Nixon had a lucky escape as the car travelled along the Bourke Street footpath through busy lunchtime crowds on January 20 last year.

"It was really close, it was maybe half a metre, maybe a bit closer," Ms Nixon said.

Ms Nixon, who served as chief commissioner of Victoria Police for eight years until 2009, has rejected the idea police could have stopped the driver before the car mounted the footpath.

"The idea that they could have stopped him in the way that many of the critics have suggested is just not possible," she said.

"I think the police did an outstanding job."

A police car on an empty Bourke Street after a car ploughs into pedestrians.

The actions of her former subordinates will come under the microscope at an inquest into the tragedy, which is currently on hold to allow for the criminal case to wrap up.

The man accused of being behind the wheel of the car, James Gargasoulas, is awaiting trial after pleading not guilty to six counts of murder and 28 counts of attempted murder.

Police previously said they had been pursuing the car earlier in the day but pulled back due to safety concerns.

Officers were seen watching as the vehicle went around in circles in the middle of the intersection outside the Flinders Street train station.

The state coroner Sara Hinchey has already indicated she intends to examine police pursuit policies and whether they were appropriately applied.

The probe will also look at how police coordinated the pursuit through their radio channels.

Ms Nixon said police had no way of knowing the pursuit would not end outside the Flinders Street station.

Fire crews and bystanders at the scene after the Bourke Street attack.

"In the police, you have circumstances where you see people behaving erratically, you've got to think about your capacity to stop that car," she said.

"Who else might be harmed?"

Ms Nixon has cast doubt on whether pursuit policies need to be amended considering what happened.

"The whole time I was in the police in NSW and in Victoria we've gone through these issues about pursuits," she said.

"You make it tighter and more regulated and then you realise that's got other complications and implications and you loosen it up."

Christine Nixon rushed to help injured

After Ms Nixon's own narrow escape with the car, she heard a gunshot and assumed the worst was over.

There were several injured people lying on the footpath and she moved in to help — discovering an upturned pram at the corner of William Street. She turned it over only to discover it was empty.

A woman approached Ms Nixon asking, "Where's the baby?" and then ran off. It was not until later that Ms Nixon learned of the child's fate.

A pram is tipped over at the scene of the Bourke Street attack.

At just three months of age, Zachary Bryant was the youngest victim of the tragedy.

With so many other bystanders already helping the injured, Ms Nixon turned her attention and police training to helping officers direct traffic.

She remained at the scene for about half an hour before back-up arrived.

Making her way home on the train, it would be sometime before she found out the full gravity of what had happened.

A policeman directs traffic in Melbourne's CBD after the Bourke Street attack

"You see, most of us I think who were involved really only understood the piece we were involved in," she said.

"Even I didn't really understand the whole kind of terror and I guess the size really of what had happened."

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