For weeks, we’ve known little about the abrupt and deadly conclusion of the Sydney siege that horrified the nation, apart from the images beamed around the world of heavily armed police opening fire as they stormed the building.
But with initial investigations reaching a conclusion, a picture has been developing of what exactly happened when police ended the siege in a hail of bullets. In recent days it has emerged:
- Ricochet police fire is believed to have killed 38-year-old hostage Katrina Dawson.
- Gunman Man Haron Monis fired a shot into the ceiling of the cafe, shortly before executing 34-year-old hostage Tori Johnson.
- Police had debated internally the merits of storming the cafe earlier, but made a decision to take “emergency action” and go in shooting after Monis fired the second shot.
In the early hours of December 16, police made the decision to throw flash bang grenades and storm the cafe after gunshots were heard inside.
“As a result of an exchange of gunfire inside that premises police moved in,” Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione told media just hours after the siege ended.
This decision was heavily scrutinized by media and members of the public following the revelation that at least one hostage was killed during the raid, prompting Scipione to defend the quick-response action.
“What we don’t do is compete with those who have to make that call. They made the call because they believed at that time, if they didn’t enter there would have been many more lives lost,” Scipione said.
However, Fairfax revealed today that the command strategy has also sparked internal police debate as to whether the “emergency action” was the most appropriate response method.
Senior police reportedly devised a “direct action” plan on the night of December 15, with the intention of storming the cafe and taking Monis by surprise.
This high risk strategy had the potential to bring about casualties among hostages. These risks were measured against the consequences of not acting, taking into consideration Monis’ changing demeanour and the possibility that he may have started executing hostages.
While senior officials and the tactical operations unit contemplated employing this tactic, a command decision eventually overruled the strategy.
At 2:03am Monis fired his first shot into the ceiling of the cafe in response to the escape of six of the remaining 13 hostages.
Around 2:10am Monis executed cafe manager Tori Johnson.
The Tactical Operations Unit reacted with an “emergency action” procedure, storming the cafe, throwing flash bang stun grenades and firing 25 shots from high-powered M4 carbine rifles.
Monis was shot and killed by police in the shoot-out, while three female hostages received gunshot wounds.
It was revealed yesterday that hostage Katrina Dawson was reportedly killed by two rounds of police fire that ricocheted off the walls of the cafe.
NSW Police said they “will not be drawn into speculation” and Dawson’s cause of death will be formally determined by the NSW Coroner once the critical incident investigation is complete.
Deputy NSW Police Commissioner Catherine Burn told media that it may take weeks or even months to properly establish exactly what happened during this tragic event.
“It has been a difficult situation, it has been demanding, it has been complicated,” she said.
After five hostages escaped on Monday afternoon, Monis had threatened to take an “eye for an eye” and start executing hostages if any others escaped.
Throughout the siege he had been claiming, via calls placed by hostages to media outlets, that there were four explosive devises planted around the area of the siege. This information turned out to be false.
Fairfax Media also revealed that around 2pm on Monday December 15, NSW counter-terrorism police contacted Rebecca Kay, a prominent community member of western Sydney, to see if she could assist authorities in locating an Islamic State flag, as requested by Monis who said he would “exchange it for a hostage”.
Kay now claims she felt betrayed by police, as three of the people she contacted asking for help had their homes raided by NSW and Federal Police in the 24 hours that followed.
In order to establish a “direct action” plan police needed to assess all the information based on where the hostages are positioned, Monis’ position, his movements and current state of mind.
Late last month an English-language ISIS propaganda magazine, Dabiq, praised Monis as “a Muslim who resolved to join the mujāhidīn of the Islamic State in their war against the crusader coalition”.
“In the aftermath of the horrific Martin Place siege and following the tragic loss of innocent lives, we must learn what we can from this incident and implement any changes necessary at the State and Federal level,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said.
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