Sydney siege: Family angered as officer says gunman had rights

Hostages escape from the Sydney siege Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Some hostages escaped from the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place during the 2014 siege

The parents of a man murdered in the Sydney cafe siege have stormed out of an inquest after a police chief said the gunman had "had the same rights as any other person".

In December 2014, self-styled Islamist Man Haron Monis held 18 people hostage inside the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place.

Heavily armed police raided the building 17 hours later after Monis shot cafe manager Tori Johnson.

The inquest is investigating the police response to the situation.

Monis was shot dead by police during the raid, while a second hostage, Katrina Dawson, was killed by stray bullet fragments fired by police.

'Absolute disgrace'

Under cross examination on Tuesday, the forward commander in charge of the siege operation was asked why he did not order the raid earlier, when Monis fired a shot in the direction of six escaping hostages.

The detective chief superintendant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said it had been "a high stakes game". When challenged on his use of "game" he said it "may not be the right word".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Revelations at the inquest into the Sydney siege have raised questions about the police response

Questions about why police snipers did not attempt to shoot Monis have been heavily discussed during the inquest.

A barrister acting for the Johnson family put it to the police commander that his mission had been to secure the safe release of the hostages rather than the welfare of the gunman.

"I can't ignore Man Monis as an individual, he had the same rights as anyone else," the police officer replied.

The comments prompted Ken Johnson and Rossie Connellan to rise from their seats and leave the court.

Ms Connellan yelled at the officer: "You're an absolute disgrace."

How the Sydney siege unfolded

  • A gunman enters the cafe early on 15 December 2014 and has a coffee before holding a gun to manager Tori Johnson's head.
  • The gunman is identified as Man Haron Monis, an Iranian self-styled Muslim cleric given asylum in Australia.
  • Monis already faces a string of criminal charges, including sexual assault and being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife.
  • Several hostages manage to escape the cafe which is surrounded by hundreds of armed police.
  • Police commandos storm the cafe in the early hours of 16 December, after Monis shoots Mr Johnson dead.
  • Monis and cafe customer Katrina Dawson die in the police operation.

The commander had previously said the cafe siege had the hallmarks of a domestic incident rather than terrorism, despite the fact that Monis asked to be given a flag of the so-called Islamic State (IS) militant group.

He said he had been advised by a psychiatrist that the siege was "final posturing" by Monis in order to gain some "street cred" before a likely jail sentence.

Monis had been facing dozens of sexual assault charges plus charges of being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Two hostages were killed and three injured during the Sydney siege

"Our experience internationally is IS does not have sieges, they have active armed offender situations," said the officer.

"They commence with violence, high levels of death, whether by a person-borne bomb or automatic gunfire - they are not siege situations.

The officer said he believed at the time that if negotiators could speak directly with Monis, they could achieve a peaceful end.

On Wednesday, he told the inquest: "Three people lost their lives because of me. I reflect on this every day but I don't know what I could have changed."

The inquest, before Coroner Michael Barnes, is continuing in Sydney.

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