A Mercedes driver accused of running a red light and smashing into another car, killing two mothers, was allegedly seen laughing on the phone shortly after being interviewed by police, a court has heard. Mohamad Hassan, a 20-year-old Lebanese citizen, had been in Australia for a year when the unregistered black Mercedes he was driving sped through a red light on Sunday night and slammed into a Toyota, killing its two occupants, a court was told on Tuesday.
The speedometer needle on Hassan’s car was frozen at 130km/h after the crash, it is alleged. Best friends Subha Deumic and Bozica Nikolic were killed in the horror crash, which Mrs Duemic’s daughter Armina – travelling behind the pair in another car – was forced to helplessly watch.
Magistrate Kay Robertson granted Mr Hassan bail in the Melbourne Magistrates Court, ordering he pay $40,000 surety, surrender any passports or travel documents, live at home and not drive a vehicle or travel in the front seat of any motor vehicle. He was also ordered not to attend airports or any ports with international shipping lines.
She said while “there is a risk of flight [and] there is a risk of further offending”, those risks could be mitigated by Mr Hassan being ordered to comply with strict bail conditions. The Office of Public Prosecutions had vigorously opposed bail, with Detective Senior Constable Alexander Osmelak telling the court Mr Hassan was an unacceptable flight risk, had “no respect for the Australian justice system”, and was allegedly seen laughing on the phone with his mother on Monday night soon after being questioned by police.
Mr Hassan’s defence lawyer disputed this claim, saying it was impossible to know what Mr Hassan – who has used the services of an Arabic translator in court – was saying to his mother.
The court was told Mr Hassan’s Lebanese passport expired two months ago, and police had been unable to establish whether he had applied for a new passport through the Lebanese embassy.
Mr Hassan was in Australia on a “provisional partner” visa, the court was told, and although his passport had expired the Department of Immigration and Border Protection had told police he was here legally.
Detective Osmelak told the court Mr Hassan had been driving the Mercedes, which bore number plates from his uncle’s ute, a car Mr Hassan was permitted to drive, on an international driver’s licence at 10pm on Sunday night.
Mr Hassan approached the intersection “at speed”, Detective Osmelak told the court, and was seen by witnesses – including the daughter of one of the victims – going through a red light before slamming into the Toyota.
Before the crash, the court was told, a dashboard camera recorded Mr Hassan’s car approaching the intersection of Mickleham Road and Alanbrae Terrace travelling at 100km/h in an 80km/h zone.
The crash caused “catastrophic damage” to the Toyota, the court heard, ripping the engine from the car and sending the Toyota spinning into a light pole.
When police examined the Mercedes after the crash, they saw the speedometer stuck on 130km/h, Detective Osmelak said.
The accused received minor injuries.
In April, Mr Hassan received a speeding fine for speeding between 15km/h and 24 km/h over the limit, the court was told.
Mr Hassan, who worked as a labourer in his uncle’s business, lives with his parents and siblings in Tullamarine, the court was told. His parents were in court to support him, and the court was told family friends had offered to put up a $20,000 surety to secure his release.
Defence lawyer Jonathan Rattray told the court Mr Hassan’s father came to Australia from Lebanon, and was granted a protection visa in 2011 before becoming a citizen in 2013.
He sponsored his wife and seven children, and the family resides in Tullamarine, living a “modest” existence.
Mr Hassan will face court at a later date, and will remain in custody until his family can pay the $40,000 surety.