The man had no criminal history, however his estranged partner and child have an intervention order against him. Police said they are safe and well.
Assistant Commissioner Glenn Weir said the attacks were random and the motive unclear.
“There’s nothing to suggest any of the people involved – be it the deceased, injured people or the offender – are known to each other,” he said.
“There’s nothing to indicate at this early stage that this is anything other than a random act of senseless violence.”
Police revealed the attacker spoke to them in 2018 about his concerns that ISIS operatives from Mildura were out to kill him. He wasn’t taken in for an assessment at the time but was flagged on the police system as having a potential mental health issue.
Police are now searching his home, his computer and phone, and talking to his family and friends to ascertain a motive. They are also gathering CCTV to trace his movements prior to the attacks.
How the stabbing rampage unfolded
The horror rampage started at 10.40pm on Wednesday and occurred over several hours.
The man was noticed by two PSOs at Jolimont about 10.40pm when he was made a “loud noise or yell” at the end of the platform. They went up to him and asked if he needed help with directions.
There was a short conversation before the offender slashed one of them with a kitchen knife on the cheek and arm. The PSO is in a stable condition and will have surgery later on Thursday.
Police said the man then ran across the concourse of the MCG and boarded a train at Richmond train station to Hawthorn.
Two women had just arrived home at Coppin Grove when the man approached them. He spoke to them briefly before stabbing them. One woman, 30, died at the scene.
The other woman, 31, screamed, alerting neighbours who called police, but the man had already fled towards Kew. She was taken to The Alfred hospital in a critical condition with significant injuries. A hospital spokesman said her condition improved during the day and she was stable by the afternoon.
Residents were woken overnight by car horns, police dogs, ambulances and a police helicopter hovering overhead.
“There was a massive police presence,” Penny, who lives on Coppin Grove, told radio station 3AW. “Police were quite frantic.”
Another neighbour, Helen Hounslow, said she was woken by a car horn about 11pm before a police dog began running through her yard.
“There was flashlights through our windows and I looked out the window and all of a sudden you see police officers with a German shepherd going down and jumping the fence and stalking the house,” she said.
Less than an hour later, the Critical Incident Response Team was called to help a 59-year-old with life-threatening stab wounds at a tram stop on Cotham Road, Kew, about 12.15am.
Similar to his attack on the PSO, the offender struck up a brief conversation with the 59-year-old man before pulling out a knife and stabbing him.
The victim dialled triple zero himself, which police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton described as a “very brave act”.
“He made the call because obviously he is worried about the community more than himself. He is worried about what else this guy is going to do,” he said. “I think it’s a tremendously brave act.”
Paramedics attempted CPR on the victim but he could not be saved.
Attacker shot dead
Police found the attacker walking on nearby Walpole Street a short time later. Police tasered the man and used a number of other non-lethal options to try and subdue him before he was shot on Walton Street.
“He was called on to surrender by police and refused to do so,” Mr Weir said.
“The ball was in his court. He’s made the decision and our members have acted accordingly, in my view.”
“We just heard three shots, there wasn’t much noise,” resident Jan said. “I was half asleep … I’m a little bit nervous but these things happen.”
Mr Ashton said: “They attempted to engage the man, he attempted to attack the police officers again with a knife and three officers have fired upon that person at that location and he has been fatally wounded by police at that time.”
Jolimont train station has been closed and crime scenes have been set up on several streets in Kew and Hawthorn. Cotham Road in Kew remains closed in both directions between High Street and Glenferrie Road.
Georgia Sassi, 21, said she was about to fall asleep when she woke to aggressive shouting by what sounded like several men.
“It got heated very quickly … Then I heard a police officer say ‘put your hands up’, then three loud gunshots,” she said.
“It was so scary. It sounded so close to my window that it could have been in my backyard. Countless times I’ve come home at that time and it could have been anyone out there.”
Mr Ashton said police talk to many people over the counter every day, but there was no concern the attacker was presenting “any kind of terror threat” when he spoke to officers in 2018.
“I’ve received a briefing from our counter-terrorism command this morning,” Mr Ashton said.
“At this stage, they have done a pretty thorough search so far and it hasn’t revealed any known links to terrorism that they are aware of …
“In fact, we are short of motivation at this time as to why he has done what he’s done and committed such very serious offending against the community.”
Police are awaiting toxicology reports to determine whether the attacker was drug-affected.
Police Minister Lisa Neville commended police. “They acted in the interest of community safety and as quickly as they could to contain this situation and bring this person under control,” she said.
How the events unfolded
10.40pm: A 34-year-old man armed with two kitchen knives and a switchblade is approached by two Protective Services Officers at Jolimont station. They ask the man if he needs help with directions and he slashes one of them on the cheek and arm.
After 10.40pm: Man runs across the concourse of the MCG and boards a train at Richmond station. He gets off at Glenferrie station in Hawthorn.
11.20pm: Two women arrive home at Coppin Grove, Hawthorn, when the man approaches them. He speaks to them briefly before stabbing them. One woman, 30, died at the scene. The other woman, 31, is at The Alfred hospital in a critical condition. The offender flees towards Kew.
12.15pm: A 59-year-old man out walking is stabbed by the offender near Cotham Road and Queen Street in Kew. He calls triple zero before he is rushed to hospital, where he dies.
After 12.15pm: Offender is shot dead by three members of the Critical Incident Response Team at Walton Street in Kew after he lunges at them with a knife.
Anyone with information should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au.
Paul is a reporter for The Age.
Erin covers crime for The Age. Most recently she was a police reporter at the Geelong Advertiser.
Simone is a crime reporter for The Age. Most recently she covered breaking news for The Age, and before that for The Australian in Melbourne.