Australian siege victim killed by police gunfire

MELBOURNE – The female hostage killed in last month’s Sydney café siege was hit by ricocheted police gunfire, an inquest heard Thursday.

Barrister Katrina Dawson, 38, was struck by six bullet fragments, one of which hit a major blood vessel, the lawyer assisting the coroner said.

The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported counsel Jeremy Gormly as saying the mother-of-three passed out and died shortly afterwards.

The coroner’s court also heard how gunman Man Haron Monis forced café manager Tori Johnson, 34, to kneel before shooting him once in the back of the head.

Quoted by news.com.au, Gormly said: “After a short lapse of time, Mr Monis simply shot him without further notice or warning in the back of the head. The end of the barrel was about 75 centimeters from Mr Johnson’s head at the moment of discharge.”

He added: “The shot was witnessed by a police marksman who called it in. That resulted in an immediate order to force entry of the cafe.”

The two victims were among 18 people held hostage by Iranian refugee Monis – shot dead as police stormed the Lindt café in Martin Place in the early hours of Dec. 16.

Police fired rounds and threw stun grenades as they entered. The Tactical Operations Unit officers fired 22 times while Monis, who was hit by 11 bullets or bullet fragments, fired back twice.

The raid was preceded by the escape of several hostages just after 2 a.m. that led to Monis firing at the door and killing Johnson 14 minutes later.

The inquest is concentrating on how Dawson and Johnson were killed; how police handled the siege; the details of Monis’ background, including his political and religious links; and how Monis came to be granted bail for serious criminal charges, including involvement in the murder of his ex-wife.

Details of the 17-hour siege emerged for the first time Thursday.

The court in Glebe, central Sydney, heard of a 12-minute telephone call Johnson made to the emergency services at 9.44 a.m. on Monis’ orders.

He told the operator that "Australia is under attack by Islamic State” and radio-controlled bombs had been placed in the vicinity.

The inquest heard Monis had not made contact with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant before the siege although someone from the group endorsed him after his death. He had forced hostages to hold a black and white Islamic flag to the café window during the siege.

Monis had arrived at the cafe at 8.33 a.m. carrying a sawn-off pump-action shotgun in a blue plastic bag. He ordered a piece of chocolate cake and a cup of tea before asking to speak to the manager.

As he talked to Monis, staff saw Johnson becoming distressed before he told one to get the keys and lock the front door.

Gormly told the hearing that Monis then stood up and declared: "This is an attack – I have a bomb."

Although there was no CCTV inside the café, there were "hundreds of hours of material” from CCTV at other buildings, social media and telephone calls, Gormly said.

The two police snipers who killed Monis are being represented at the inquest but their identities will remain a secret.

New South Wales Coroner Michael Barnes said there would be no hesitation to make adverse findings against the police if necessary.

Other investigations into the siege are underway, including a review of why Monis was given asylum and eventually citizenship in Australia.

Copyright © 2015 Anadolu Agency