Families questioned why police waited 17 hours to enter the cafe.
Australian police made key mistakes in handling a siege at a Sydney cafe that ended with the death of two hostages along with the gunman who’d claimed allegiance to Islamic State, a coroner’s report has found.
The coroner's findings follow intense criticism from many of the 18 hostages and families of the victims, who have long questioned why police waited nearly 17 hours to enter the Lindt Cafe and end the December 2014 siege. Police moved in only after an erratic Man Monis fatally shot cafe manager Tori Johnson. Monis was then shot dead by police and another hostage, lawyer Katrina Dawson, was killed in the crossfire.
Though New South Wales state Coroner Michael Barnes took pains to say that the only person responsible for the deaths was Monis himself, he concluded police made a series of mistakes, most notably by failing to immediately storm the cafe after Monis fired at a group of hostages who fled the building more than 16 hours into the crisis. Another 10 minutes elapsed before Monis fired his shotgun into the back of Johnson's head, killing him instantly and finally triggering the police response.
“That event made it clear that negotiations had little or no chance of resolving the siege and that the hostages remaining in the cafe were at extreme risk of harm, the 10 minutes that elapsed without decisive action by police was too long.”
“contain and negotiate tactics"
The coroner recommended that authorities rethink police “contain and negotiate” tactics used to deal with terrorist events. The findings came as U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May warned further terrorism attacks in the U.K. could be “imminent” after a suicide bombing killed 22 people at a Manchester pop concert.
Lindt cafe manager Tori Johnson, 34, was shot in the back of the head by Monis after being ordered to his knees. His colleague, 38-year-old barrister Katrina Dawson, died during the police raid that killed Monis; while she was hit by six ricocheting police bullets or fragments, Barnes concluded the police gunmen were not to blame for her death.
Multiple calls by hostages to a number they had been told would connect them with a police negotiator went unanswered, compounding their fear and frustration. At one point, hostage Marcia Mikhael called a Sydney radio station on Monis' behalf and said police were doing nothing to end the crisis, saying, "They have left us here to die."
Some tweeted, holding the court to be as responsible as Monis himself
Monis was facing 43 counts of sexual assault at the time of the siege relating to his work as a self-styled spiritual healer and had been sentenced to 300 hours of community service over offensive letters he’d written to the families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan, an inquiry into the siege heard in May 2015. Still, he was free on bail and not on a watchlist.
Outside court, Johnson's partner, Thomas Zinn, said the inquest had exposed a series of mistakes by officials.
"We were confronted with a systematic failure of various authorities, who at times were confused, ill-informed, unprepared and under-resourced to deal with Monis," Zinn told reporters.