by Mary W Maxwell
The Lindt Café Inquest hearings began in January 2015, a month after the siege, but they stopped and started, with continuous sessions dating from some point in 2016. At the moment they are winding down and may end in early August.
I’ve only read the headline-worthy MSM reports about the hearings. Only recently did I notice that a lot seems to be missing. To put it boldly, I will ask some questions below that I think the curious public would want to know about that day that “shook the nation.”
Questions that citizens would expect to have answered, or addressed, are:
- What was this Monis person all about? What are his real ties (if any) to organized groups, and did he act at their behest?
- Is it legally peculiar that Monis was out on bail, rather then in prison awaiting trial for being accessory to a murder? (That is the one question that was reported rather thoroughly.)
- The girlfriend with whom he is said to have colluded in regard to that murder — is she a player in political affairs?
- Or was she, perhaps, Monis’ handler for an agency such as ASIO?
- Is there any evidence of his planning this dramatic event 10 days before Christmas?
- How about that gun – when did he acquire it? Is he well trained in using it?
- For a short while he joined a bikie gang – what was that in aid of? Were any bikies subpoena’d to testify at this Inquest?
- On the day of the siege, how did he get to Martin Place?
- Had he ever been in Lindt Café before? (I am sure if I were going to take hostages – and don’t worry I’m not – I would get the feel of the place first.)
- It is said that there was a CCTV camera inside the Café? Is it the kind that records? Did Lindt have recordings of the prior few months?
I interrupt to say that I don’t think many answers to these questions came out in hearings so far. I didn’t set foot into the hearings until June 4, 2016, but a glance at back issues of the press and TV tells me that hose matters were not laid out at the hearings. Or, if laid out, were not reported.
Continuing with questions:
- How many of the 18 hostages were regulars in the Café?
- For those who were not regulars, what brought them there that day? (I think one of them said she went in to buy a box of chocolates as a Christmas gift.)
- When Monis told Tori Johnson to lock the doors, how many doors did that entail? What does the locking consist of (such as pressing an alarm system that would cause noise if anyone tied to break in after hours, or setting a computer)?
- When Monis told Tori he had a bomb, did he also say he was planning to detonate it? Or did he promise he would not do so?
- At some point did Tori, or Monis, make an announcement?
- Throughout the day, which persons sought to do a deal with, or even just plead with, Monis?
- One man was over age 80, one woman was pregnant. Did anyone suggest that those two be excused?
- How exactly did the first three persons escape at 3.30pm?
- How did the next batch of two escape around 5pm?
- Did all hostages know that the fire exit was open?
- How many of the hostages had cell phones? Were they asked to forfeit these?
- Monis did let some people go to the toilets that were one flight up (and which connected to a door from which they could escape). Did every one of the 18 get this privilege?
- Was each person asked, at the hearing, if he or she thought Monis might shoot anyone dead? What was the basis for their belief?
I interrupt to say that regardless of what the Coroner is used to focusing on, in order to get the job done, these are questions the public would be curious about – whether or not they fit strictly into the mission of the Inquest. After all, it was a terrifying event as experienced by all Australians that day.
The prime minister went on TV to say “I can’t imagine being in a more distressing situation.” At this late date, how can we expect to get answers? Not from the media, as the hostages are reported to have signed deals with Channel 7 not to talk with any other outlet! (Correction: I read that Laura Hope said she won’t sell her story.)
Questions about the Authorities’ Handling of the Siege
- Who called the police (all up) and what did they say?
- Which officers (code names are allowed at the inquest) were the first to get the message?
- What did they do? What procedures were in place for this type of event?
- Is it a matter for NSW only, or were the feds called in?
- If feds, was it the AFP or the ADF, or both?
- When a hostage taker mentions loyalty to another country, is there a protocol about involving the ADF, or Parliament?
- Is it the procedure in a hostage situation for some experts to engage in negotiation with the hostage-taker? What are their options for making deals with him?
- As everyone heard in the news, Monis was asking for two favors – did he promise a release of hostages if the wishes were granted? The two favors were to chat by phone with the PM, Tony Abbott, and for someone to bring Monis an “Islamic State” flag.
- Where did the banner in Arabic lettering (the one hung at the window) come from? What does it say?
- As the various hostages held the banner they did not appear to be looking around Martin Place for help, or trying to mouth a message; why is that? Did Monis forbid them to communicate even with their eyes?
- Did any police outside try to get their attention? (Yes, one said he raised a finger to the person at the window as though to ask “Is there only one gunman?”)
- At what point did the police know the identity of all, or most, of the people inside? (This was answered in the July 14, 2016 hearing: by 6pm most names were known.)
- When the first three escaped, we see on the video that no helper from the police department, such as a social worker or doctor, seemed to approach them, despite their trauma. Why?
- Those three persons must have revealed to police the general nature of what was happening as well as any hints as to how Monis could be tackled or tricked. Is that correct?
- Was Monis listening to radio or Internet during the day, to learn the reaction of government or of the public?
- Who informed Monis that his two requests would not be granted, and when?
- How did he react?
- Which hostages were carrying out Monis’s instructions to type certain things to social media?
- Did any hostages exhibit great emotion during the crisis?
- Did Tori Johnson or any other person take a leadership role, whether to openly instruct the hostages to stay calm, or to pass secret messages around as to a plan to end the siege?
- It was said (at a hearing that I attended) that one hostage had conveyed the message at 9.30pm that Monis demanded that the glaring lights of Martin Place be turned off or he would kill someone. The negotiator said he did not know of this till 12.30am. Who did know of it? How did that negotiator learn of it at 12.30am?
- How did the plans for a termination of the siege by officials progress during the 17 hours? (I realize this may not be reportable if it is a security trade secret.)
- Is it true that there was a clear instruction not to kill Monis because he did not yet deserve it?
- What, today, is the rule when an armed hostage-taker is in a stronghold – if there are no negotiations afoot, shouldn’t we assume it will end in disaster?
- What of the obvious fact that Monis himself had no means of escape. What did that suggest to the authorities?
- At the moment of entry after 2am, did certain snipers have it as their sole mission to kill Monis?
- Was there any plan to merely disable him? (Yes, one team leader at the hearings said Monis would be arrested, not killed, if he were not posing a danger.)
- Could not a distractive technique (such as dogs or a smoke bomb or loud music) have been used to put Monis off his guard and then police rush in?
- At times during the day, some hostages reportedly accompanied each other to the toilets. When they were upstairs did they collude as to how to handle the situation?
In my opinion, Australians are entitled to know what the hostages did as regards planning to save their lives. It’s hard to believe that a group of 18 adults wouldn’t have been able to think up a way to escape, or to tackle the gunman, or to use their cell phones to get good advice from the authorities.
Let it not be said that I am criticizing the hostages for not doing enough. I am criticizing the government for not telling us enough. And I don’t mean now in 2016, I mean early in 2015. Still, it may yet be that all will be explained.
— Mary W Maxwell cut her teeth on reporting at the Royal Commission last October – see Gumshoe’s 14-part series on that. Mary does not by any means claim to be doing a good job at the Lindt Inquest. Still, for the moment, she’s better than nothing.
Photo credit: irishtimes,com