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Huan Yun XIANG





Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: School shooting
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: October 21, 2002
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: 1966
Victims profile: Xu Hui "William" Wu, 26, and Steven Chan, 26 (students)
Method of murder: Shooting (five handguns)
Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Status: Found not guilty because of mental illness on June 17, 2004. Transferred to psychiatric hospital

The Monash University shooting was a school massacre that took place at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia on October 21, 2002.

At 11:20am on October 21, students on the sixth floor of the Menzies Building on Monash's Clayton campus reported hearing gun shots.

Huan Xiang, a commerce student at the university, armed with five loaded handguns, had opened fire in a tutorial room. Two students, William Wu and Steven Chan, were killed and others seriously wounded.

When he stopped shooting and moved to switch weapons, injured lecturer Lee Gordon-Brown and a student in the room, Alaistair Boast, tackled him. Boast and fellow student Bradley Thompson were helped by a lecturer from a nearby room, Brett Inder, to restrain Xiang for fifteen minutes until police arrived while student Andrew Swann and university administrator Colin Thornby provided first aid.

Xiang was deemed by police to be unfit for interview but wrote a note referring to William Wu after his arrest saying "I finally ended WW's life."

Huan Xiang was quickly reported to have 'struggled' with his classes, in particular due to not having sufficiently good English skills to succeed with his school work. The defence and prosecution in his trial agreed that he suffered from a paranoid delusional disorder.

On June 17, 2004 a jury found Xiang not guilty of the murder of Wu and Chan and of the attempted murder of five other people in the room because of mental illness. Justice Bernard Teague ordered Xiang be transferred to the Thomas Embling psychiatric hospital.


The Monash University shooting refers to a shooting in which a student shot his classmates and teacher, killing two and injuring five. It took place at Monash University in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on October 21, 2002.

Events of October 21

At 11:24am on October 21, Huan Yun "Allen" Xiang, a commerce student at the university, armed with five loaded handguns, opened fire in room E 659 of the Menzies Building on Monash's Clayton campus in an econometrics class containing twelve students. People in the classroom were initially confused by the noise and by Xiang screaming "You never understand me" from the desk he was standing on.

Xiang killed two students in the room:

  • Xu Hui "William" Wu, an international student from Hong Kong and neighbour of Xiang's in Melbourne; and

  • Steven Chan, a student from Doncaster.

Xiang wounded five others:

  • lecturer Lee Gordon-Brown, who was shot in the arm and knee;

  • student Daniel Urbach, who was wounded in the shoulder and arm;

  • student Laurie Brown, who was wounded in the leg and abdomen;

  • student Christine Young, who was shot in the face; and

  • student Leigh Dat Huynh, who was discharged from hospital within a day.

When Xiang stopped shooting and moved to switch weapons, Lee Gordon-Brown, the injured lecturer, grabbed Xiang's hands as he reached into his jacket. Gordon-Brown and a student in the room, Alastair Boast, a trained kung fu practitioner, tackled him. Bradley Thompson later entered the room and discovered other guns in a holster around Xiang's waist, and removed two magazines from near his left hip and a revolver from the base of his back.

After Gordon-Brown collapsed, Boast and Thompson were helped by a lecturer from a nearby room, Brett Inder, to restrain Xiang for fifteen minutes until police arrived while student Andrew Swann and university administrator Colin Thornby provided first aid. At least one injured student reportedly left the room and sought help for his injuries from security staff.

Xiang was deemed by police to be unfit for interview but wrote a note referring to William Wu after his arrest saying "I finally ended WW's life."

All classes in the Menzies Building were cancelled for the rest of the day and the university set up counselling stations.


Xiang pleaded not guilty before his trial to two counts of murder and five of attempted murder on account of mental impairment.

During his two day trial, prosecutor Sue Pullen presented evidence that Xiang felt the killings were his destiny. Evidence showed that Xiang had joined the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia in April 2002, and gained a handgun licence in June 2002. One lecturer, Gael Martin, told the court that she had expressed concerns about his mental state a week prior to the shootings.

Evidence was offered that he harboured delusional beliefs that William Wu was an agent of evil and would destroy him academically, and that his actions on October 21 2002 focused on fufiling a perceived destiny to kill Wu.

The defence and prosecution in Xiang's trial agreed that he suffered from a paranoid delusional disorder. The prosecution asked the jury to find him not guilty. On June 17, 2004 the Victorian Supreme Court jury found him not guilty of the murder of Wu and Chan and of the attempted murder of five other people in the tutorial room due to mental impairment. Justice Bernard Teague ordered Xiang be transferred to the Thomas Embling psychiatric hospital. He may be held there for as long as 25 years.



On October 22 2002, flags on Clayton campus flew at half mast, and a graffiti artist wrote "Life is short. Cherish your friends. Love one another. R.I.P."on a campus billboard. On the first anniversary of the shootings, October 21, 2003, a day of reflection was held on Clayton campus.

William Wu and Steven Chan were posthumously awarded honours degrees by Monash University.


Early media coverage focussed on Xiang's limited English skills and resulting difficulties communicating as possible contributing factors to his decisions.

There was also editorial coverage arguing both for and against additional legal restrictions on handguns being introduced in Australia.

Gun ownership laws

Australian Prime Minister John Howard promised a review of Australian gun laws after it was discovered that Xiang had had a gun licence and had legally acquired his weapons. The Victorian State Government prepared new laws doubling the punishment for misuse of handguns and introducing new laws against trafficking in handguns almost immediately after the shooting.

The National Handgun Buyback Act 2003 was signed into law on June 30 2003. New restrictions were put in place on maximum calibre and number of shots for handguns and minimum barrel lengths for single-shot guns, revolvers and semi-automatics. Victoria began its handgun buyback scheme in August 2003.

Bravery awards

Lee Gordon-Brown, Alastair Boast, Brett Inder, Bradley Thompson, Andrew Swann and Colin Thornby all received bravery awards for their part in restraining Xiang and helping injured victims. The Royal Humane Society awarded Gordon-Brown the 2005 Stanhope Gold Medal, the highest Commonwealth award for bravery. In addition The Royal Humane Society of Australia (RHSA) awarded him the 2004 Clarke Gold Medal of the RHSA and he was awarded the Star of Courage, the second highest award for bravery in the Australian honours system. The RHSA awarded Alastair Boast the Gold Medal of the RHSA.


Two die as gunman attacks his own class

By Padraic Murphy, Misha Ketchell and Andrew Heasley - The Sydney Morning Herald

October 22 2002

Two students were dead and a third was left fighting for his life late yesterday after a disgruntled commerce student opened fire with two handguns in a Monash University tutorial.

The gunman, believed to be a fourth year honours student, walked into the sixth-floor econometrics tutorial about 11.20am, carrying two small hand pistols. He opened fire, killing two Asian students in their 20s instantly.

A 30-year-old man was airlifted to the Alfred Hospital suffering abdominal injuries and was last night in a critical condition in the Alfred Hospital.

Four other students, all suffering gunshot wounds, were taken to hospital. A woman was shot in the jaw and others suffered multiple wounds, including one man in his 20s who underwent surgery at St Vincent's Hospital to reattach a finger shot off in the attack.

Thanh Huynh, sister of Lee Huynh, one of the victim, said the attack was indiscriminate.

"He was in a tutorial room ... I think there was meant to be a presentation by the gunman today," she told Channel Nine. "I said 'What happened?' and he said the guy, the gunman, just went berserk and started shooting everyone and he was unfortunately one of the ones that got shot in the legs."

Witnesses said the gunman, was wrestled to the floor and disarmed by a lecturer and at least one other student.

"The people on the floor at the time were just unbelievable. They definitely saved lives. One of the men in the class managed to disarm the gunman, secure the weapons, and treat two of the patients," said Paul Howells, the first paramedic to arrive at the scene. "Credit should also be given to the attending ambulance officers, who did a superb job. The death toll could have been much worse."

The gunman was arrested at the scene and showed no resistance to police. Last night he was being questioned by homicide squad detectives with the help of an interpreter.

Victoria Police Superintendent Trevor Parks confirmed the gunman was a student in the class, but would not confirm his name. He said the tutor and a student were believed to have wrestled the gunman to the floor, immobilising him while others called the police. He said there were fewer than 10 key witnesses.

"If the gunman hadn't been subdued at the time it would have been a major disaster."

He described the alleged gunman as an Asian male in his mid-30s. He said the wounded suffered gunshots to legs, arms, backs and shoulders, with up to four of the victims being shot more than once.

Fellow students said the gunman came to Australia about four years ago from China to study commerce. He had few friends and struggled with English.

"He would often become frustrated in tutorials because no one could understand him," a university classmate said.

Students at Monash said scenes in the 11-storey building were chaotic immediately after the shooting, with students jostling on to crowded escalators to escape. At one stage, some thought the gunman was loose in the student union, opposite the Menzies building.

"We were very concerned about the lack of effective communication," said student newspaper editor Jesse Macneal-Brown. "It was some time before everybody knew what was going on."



Two students killed in Australian university shooting

By Margaret Rees -

29 October 2002

Two fourth year honours commerce students were killed and five other people wounded, when a student suddenly opened fire in a classroom at Melbourne’s Monash University on October 21. The tragedy occurred at the beginning of an econometrics tutorial on the sixth floor of the Menzies building at the suburban Clayton campus. It points to a growing crisis within Australia’s tertiary education system, which is creating profound social tensions that remain totally unaddressed.

As bullets sprayed around the room, Professor Lee Gordon-Brown, who was teaching the class, leapt forward to grapple with the gunman. He was joined by one of the final year students, Alistair Boast, and between them they managed to overcome the assailant. Another professor from a nearby classroom, Brett Inder, heard the shooting, and rushed to their aid. Gordon-Brown was shot several times and collapsed.

Inder disarmed the gunman, who had a total of five handguns, then stayed with him, trying to calm him down until security arrived. At the same time he helped organise medical assistance for the wounded to stop their bleeding.

Ambulance officers praised the quick thinking of the professors and students, pointing out that their actions had prevented far greater loss of life. The two students killed were Steven Chan, 26 and Xu Hui William Wu, 26, an overseas student from Hong Kong. Those shot and wounded as well as Gordon-Brown were students Laurie Brown, Daniel Urbach, Christine Young and Leigh Huynh. Several received multiple gunshot wounds.

Police arrested the alleged gunman Huan Yun Xiang, 36, and took him for questioning. Next day in Melbourne Magistrates Court he faced two charges of murder and five of attempted murder. Aided by a Cantonese interpreter, he did not apply for bail and was not required to plead.

Xiang, a mature age student at Monash University who has permanent residency in Australia, was known to the students and lecturer in the class as a loner who always sat somewhat apart. Inder told the media: “I can’t say much about the allegations that have been made but I know the person I was holding down. I know that he is a committed student, a hard-working student, a very intelligent student. But there’s probably also some deep concerns for his welfare that I would have.”

Xiang was an honours student, about to complete his fourth and final year. He lived close to the university with his mother in a spartan block of flats. On the morning of the shootings, he left behind a note about his intentions, then proceeded to the tutorial where he was to present an oral dissertation. He had evidently postponed this until the last date possible before university classes ended and final examinations began.

There is limited knowledge of Xiang’s history. It is not clear what his financial situation was, if he was supported by his family or had worked before enrolling at university. He shared an unfurnished, inexpensive, rented flat with his mother but had found the money to buy seven handguns obtained legally through a Sporting Shooters Association.

Ruwan Bandara, an overseas student living in the flat below Xiang and his mother told WSWS that he was “very surprised” to hear about the shooting. Xiang was “a very quiet, friendly guy. When he talked he was smiling and friendly.” Bandara noted, however, that Xiang had problems communicating in English. “We spoke about pushing his car to the garage. We couldn’t understand what he said.”

Other residents described him as very quiet, but frustrated with his inability to make himself understood in English, which was clearly preying on his mind.

Because of his language difficulties, Xiang’s final oral dissertation was a high stakes requirement that he had no chance of fulfilling. The almost certain outcome was failure. For overseas students, failing a course can result in deportation. For those with permanent residency like Xiang, it can still mean personal disaster. There are few job prospects for Asian workers with poor English language skills, except unskilled factory work. Yet he would still be required to repay his accrued university fees through HECS—the Higher Education Contribution Scheme.

Whatever mental health and other problems Xiang must have suffered—and which appear to have been undiagnosed and untreated—the pressure associated with looming failure seems to have been what caused him to snap.

Limited language assistance

Liz Thompson, from the Monash Students Association, spoke to WSWS about the high number of students failed quite late in their studies. “Somebody from the Student Association tries to represent these students at the hearings where they appeal against their exclusion from university. The great majority of them are international students, and exclusion is almost always over their English language proficiency.

“That’s who we see at exclusion hearings. They are international students, who are extremely bright. But with the oral presentations, that is when it is discovered that they haven’t got the English language capabilities. Often they are in the business/ economics faculty. It is often not getting picked up until second or third year—and there are substantial numbers.

“These students get a letter saying they’re at risk of failing. Here at Monash, unlike at RMIT [Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology] University, the letter does not include any advice with the number of the student union where they can get some representation. At RMIT there has been a fight to make sure that advice is included in the letter. Here, we’ve been looking at obtaining something similar for months.”

Asked about the provision of back up English language facilities for students of non-English speaking background (NESB) at Monash, Thompson indicated that while there is a Language and Learning Service, the pressure on such services had intensified enormously with the rapid increase in the international student population.

The education of international students has become Australia’s third biggest service industry in terms of overseas income, increasing by an extraordinary 75 percent since 1996 and now worth close to $4 billion per year. By enrolments, Monash is Australia’s largest university, with eight campuses, including one in Malaysia and one in Johannesburg, South Africa. International agents operate from China to countries such as Fiji, aggressively seeking international enrolments. Of the student body, 25.6 percent consists of overseas students, up from 12 percent just two years ago. But support services, including language facilities, have totally failed to keep up with the influx.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported in July that the federal government had been deluged with complaints from academics that classes of students from non-English speaking backgrounds had become almost impossible to teach. The universities’ desperation for full fee paying students had led to indiscriminate enrolments, regardless of the capacity of students to understand or participate in their classes. Business/Commerce and computing courses were the most seriously affected.

Cutbacks in government funding have made it impossible for the universities to provide the necessary back-up facilities. Phong Nguyen, director of the Indo-Chinese Association in Melbourne told ABC radio after the shootings: “We have to look seriously at how our universities support overseas students.”

He said that, out of “this tragic accident... Monash University and all other universities that take a lot of overseas students, and in fact rely on overseas students (for funds) have to be seriously looked at. How much pressure are they under to take overseas students regardless of their ability? Then students are here, and the universities do not support them enough. The universities take their money, but do not support them.”

Mike Puleston, a former university language centre teacher, who wrote to the Melbourne Age after Xiang appeared in court, explained to WSWS: “There are few situations more stressful than that of being an overseas student, trying to operate in a strange culture, with the heavy weight of family expectation upon one.” He added: “I should mention too, that the suicides of overseas students—usually caused by unbearable stress—are rarely reported in the media.”

A similar tragedy occurred at Latrobe University, another Melbourne campus, three years ago when an honours student started shooting in a campus restaurant. The restaurant manager, who had earlier fired the student from a part-time job, was killed and other patrons wounded before the young man was overwhelmed.

Over two thousand students attended a memorial ceremony at Monash University last Friday, where the families of Steven Chan and Xu Hui William Wu were posthumously presented with their sons’ honours degrees. The overwhelming reaction was grief, combined with a sense of concern over what could have caused such a tragedy.

But the response of the mass media and politicians has been entirely different. Ignoring any of the social and educational issues so obviously involved, they have immediately focused on law and order: strengthening guns laws, limiting availability of hand guns, reviewing security procedures on campuses, etc. The official establishment would prefer to avoid any probing into how and why contemporary Australian society has become a breeding ground for the type of insanity involved in such indiscriminate acts of violence.



Monash murder accused 'mentally impaired'

June 15, 2004

A Melbourne honours student on trial for murdering two fellow students and wounding five other men, should not be found guilty because of mental impairment, the prosecution told the Supreme Court today.

Sue Pullen, for the Crown, told the jury the prosecution acknowledged that at the time of the shooting rampage at Monash University on October 21, 2002, all the evidence pointed to 38-year-old Huan Xiang being mentally impaired.

She said the Crown would not be calling any witnesses to the shooting and three psychiatrists would testify as to Xiang's mental state.

The court heard that Xiang was armed with five loaded handguns when he opened fire at an economics tutorial.

Xiang killed fellow students William Wu and Steven Chan, both 26, and badly wounded five others, including a lecturer.

The court heard that police found a typewritten note taped to a wardrobe door at Xiang's home in Welling Road, Clayton, which "focused on killing William Wu", who was also referred to as "WW".

The note said: "Just pick up a gun, kill all those WW's until there is no more WW in the world anymore".

"To kill WW's is the responsibility defined in my destiny."

Ms Pullen said the jury would hear that Xiang suffered from a paranoid delusional disorder and in that state he believed Mr Wu was going to kill him.

Asked before the trial started how he pleaded, Xiang answered: "Not guilty because of mental impairment".

He is charged with two counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder.



Monash gunman not guilty

By Jewel Topsfield -

June 18, 2004

A commerce student who killed two classmates, wounded four others and shot a lecturer during a bloody rampage at Monash University, was yesterday found not guilty of murder and attempted murder because of mental impairment.

A Supreme Court jury delivered its verdict after a two-day trial in which both the defence and prosecution agreed that Huan Yun "Allen" Xiang was suffering from a paranoid delusional disorder when he opened fire on his econometrics tutorial on October 21, 2002.

The tragedy precipitated a $118 million national handgun buyback. Tougher laws for obtaining and keeping a gun were also introduced last year after it emerged that in the six months before the shooting rampage Xiang became a licensed gun owner and amassed an arsenal of seven firearms.

Justice Bernard Teague yesterday ordered Xiang, 38, to be detained for up to 25 years.

He said Xiang should go into the custody of the Thomas Embling Hospital, a high-security hospital for people with mental illness, but "regrettably" a bed was not available for several weeks.

"It is getting to the stage where politicians will have to consider that we are housing in prison too many people suffering from mental illness," Justice Teague said.

Students William Wu and Steven Chan, both 26, were killed in the shooting rampage.

Lecturer Lee Gordon-Brown - who was lauded as a hero for restraining Xiang before police arrived, despite being severely wounded - was shot in the arm and the leg.

Xiang pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder because of mental impairment.

Outside court, Dr Gordon-Brown's parents, Oxley and Joan Gordon-Brown, expressed relief that the trial was over.

"I just hope the experts got it right and he (Xiang) is not smarter than them," Mr Gordon-Brown said.

He spoke of his pride in his son, who had returned to lecturing within weeks of the tragedy. "He still has a bullet in him. He'll remember it for the rest of his life," Mr Gordon-Brown said.

Acting Vice-Chancellor of Monash University Alan Lindsay said yesterday's verdict would provide a degree of closure to this tragic chapter for the university community.

"Nothing will replace Steven Chan and William Wu, two exceptionally bright Monash honours students whose lives were cut short," Professor Lindsay said.

At 11.15am on October 21, 2002, Xiang, who was described as an excellent student, was sitting quietly reading a newspaper at the back of a lecture room on the sixth floor of the university's Robert Menzies building.

As the class of 12 students began to revise for an exam, sharp bangs were heard and students began screaming and diving to the floor in panic.

Xiang was seen standing on a desk with his arms outstretched pointing a black object and yelling: "You never understand me."

In court, forensic psychiatrist Dr Douglas Bell said Xiang believed his victims were plotting to destroy him academically and have him killed. He said Xiang described student William Wu as the "Godfather" of Monash University and believed he was the representative of all evil across the world.

"He saw it as his responsibility to do what he could to get rid of the William Wus of the world and then to kill himself," Dr Bell said.

The psychiatrist said paranoid delusional disorder was difficult to diagnose and, despite his mental illness, Xiang was able to continue operating at a high level academically.

Students and staff at the university could not have known Xiang was severely mentally ill or predicted the terrible tragedy that unfolded, Dr Bell said.

Xiang will be remanded in custody until a bed becomes available at the Thomas Embling Hospital in two to three weeks.


Killer sent to psych hospital

June 17, 2004

An honours student who shot dead two people and wounded five others in a class at Melbourne's Monash University will spend up to 25 years in a psychiatric hospital.

Huan Xiang, 38, was found not guilty of murder on the grounds of mental impairment by a Victorian Supreme Court jury.

But Justice Bernard Teague ordered Xiang be transferred from jail to the Thomas Embling psychiatric hospital as soon as a bed became available.

Xiang was armed with five loaded handguns when he opened fire at the university in Melbourne's south-east at 11.24am on October 21, 2002, the court heard.

He had arrived before his fellow students and had taken his usual seat at the back of the class.

Witnesses heard Xiang say "you never understand" as he opened fire with a black CZ 9mm handgun.

Students William Wu and Steven Chan, both 26, were killed instantly.

Despite being shot in the thigh and arms, econometrics lecturer Lee Gordon-Brown and student Alistair Boast subdued Xiang when he stopped shooting and reached inside his jacket for another weapon.

Mr Boast, student Bradley Thompson and associate professor Brett Inder, who ran to the scene when he heard the shots, restrained Xiang for about 15 minutes until police arrived.

Student Andrew Swann and university administrator Colin Thornby provided first aid to the wounded.

All five later received bravery awards.

At the start of the two-and-a-half day trial, prosecuting counsel Sue Pullen told the jury the prosecution agreed with the defence that at the time of the shootings, Xiang was suffering from a paranoid delusional disorder.

The jury took just half an hour to bring in verdicts of not guilty due to mental impairment on two charges of murder and five counts of attempted murder.

Earlier, Ms Pullen told the court Xiang was found to be carrying three handguns on a gun belt under his jacket, with a fourth tucked down the back of his trousers.

She said Xiang was deemed unfit for interview on the day of the shooting but wrote a one-sentence statement referring to Mr Wu: "I finally ended WW's life."


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