by Mary W Maxwell, PhD, LLB
Might as well use colorful language in the title, as there was plenty of it in the courtroom today. During the 2014 siege of the Lindt Café, cops waiting outside had their own way of referring to Man Haron Monis — not as “the terrorist” or “the person of interest” (as the lawyers have been saying) — but simply as “the cunt.”
Testimony on this day (July 13, 2016) was mainly given by a NSW policeman. It’s annoying that codenames for cops are used in court – this man is proud of what he did; he’d probably like to have his name shouted from the rooftops.
Speaking of those snipers who were on rooftops – or at least at a high window in the Channel 7 building and the Westpac building – they are code-named “Sierra 1, 2, 3” whatever. Beats me how it would not be OK to say “Sniper 1, 2, 3.”
As for the man with the strong language, today’s witness, he had the job of carrying the ballistics shield. So when the team went into the café – something he was on alert to do during the whole 16-hour siege – he was at the front, protecting the shooter immediately behind him, Officer A.
Carrying the Ballistics Shield
I’ll call this guy “Shieldie.” I think I heard the judge say that the brand name of his shield is under a non-publication order, but its weight, 17 kilos, was bandied about in court. (That’s 37 pounds to you, Seppo’s.)
Shieldie was unwilling to entertain any hypothesis that he was getting weary from carrying the shield all day. He said for a long time he was able to prop it up on 3 milk crates. He could look through the Perspex window of it, but during the main action (après 2am) he looked over it.
Earlier in the day he had pressed it up against “white window” of the Lindt Café, but Monis saw him and so he had to quit.
When the call for action finally came at 2.06 (or 2.09, excuse me, I’m not clear on this), Shieldie and his team were stationed down Philip St. That was the call that prompted him to say “Holy fuck, it’s turned real.”
Entering “White Door”
They – Alpha Team — made a beeline for the front door of the café, known as white door. Flashbangs were used galore, as the public could see on TV. I had wondered, as a citizen, why so many cops, carrying guns, ran into the premises when it was known that there was only one target, Mr Monis.
The two main shooters were behind Shieldie. They are “Officer A” who fired 17 rounds, and “Officer B” who fired 5. After Monis was down, the lights came on and Shieldie then advised hostage Laura Hope to move.
She said she could not move as her foot was wounded. Shieldie and his mate spent a short time dragging Monis’ body a few meters and then carried Ms Hope out the door. His words, if I heard correctly, were “Get some fucking medics in here.”
Did Officer B Sing?
Officer B was wounded – not critically — and was taken to the ambulance. Shieldie went out to check on him. Ms Sophie Callan (Counsel assisting the Inquest) asked Shieldie if he had asked Officer B if he had fired his weapon. He denied having asked.
Apparently cops are forbidden to converse about an operation that has been completed. Ms Callan clearly did not believe that Shieldie and Officer B would feel constrained at a dramatic, historic moment like this. I myself cannot imagine it.
If I may make a sexist remark: girls can’t keep secrets but men famously can. So, OK, conceivably these two men talked about the weather instead of how many shots were fired. You never know. But my guess is they did exchange the relevant news.
(Note: without being able to see the witnesses on the screen at the Coroner’s Court, 888 Goulburn St, Sydney, I can’t tell if the speaker is fidgeting, blushing, or whatever. But Shieldie’s tone of voice – which we are allowed to hear — was as confident as could be.)
The Use of the Vernacular
Shieldie said that when had he realized, in the Café, that Officer B was down, he shouted “Get the fuck up, get the fuck up.” This caused Ms Callan to have to say – as she always repeats a remark for clarity – “When you said ‘Get the fuck up, get the fuck up,’ is that the standard way of putting it?” Shieldie said “No, that’s just me being me.”
I can honestly say that the use of the vernacular, in this rather dry courtroom, put a dimension of reality back into the proceedings. Even Sophie let out a tiny smirk, in contrast to her impeccably calm and business-like demeanor.
Wishing It Happened Differently
As expected, the lawyers for the two bereaved families are asking questions that angle for a revelation of police error. Indeed it does look as though many errors were made, not least the nonsense purveyed by the negotiators (i.e., “Duh”).
In the recent hearings, the main errors being highlighted are the overall delay in initiating the EA (emergency action), and the slowness of Team Charlie in getting past the red door. No doubt things could have worked out differently – but, of course, that may have resulted in a worse number of deaths.
We don’t know, and Coroner Barnes discouraged the “what if” questioning that was being attempted by Mr Michael O’Connell, lawyer for the Dawson family.
I am not sure if anything greater than an apology can eventually come from the government if police error is found. That is, I don’t know if any criminal prosecution or civil action is at the back of the lawyers’ minds. But at least the “angling” is raising doubts about a lot of police procedures.
The most surreal witness remarks I have heard (note: my attendance is only a sliver of the whole inquest) came from a man who tried to explain why the identification of the terrorist in the Café took so long.
It seems that by noontime some homicide detectives, who had been involved in the prosecution of Monis for other crimes, relayed their belief that the man in the café was Man Haron Monis.
Also, other police sources had matched up the description of a man “with a scruffy beard, age 50-ish, wearing a bandana and a backpack,” with the profile of the Islamic protestor, Monis.
Nonetheless, the Intelligence leader – as best as I could discern – did not become aware of the identification until 6pm.
Again, Ms Callan tried to wring out of this man what the cause of the delay was. The main response – I am paraphrasing here – was: “Duh.”
To be more precise, he kept saying how the group is divided into cells (ask me later what my theory is about the reason for such compartmentalization). Some cops were referring all day to messages on “iServe” – where the incoming intelligence, pardon the phrase, was supposed to be uploaded.
Yet it was not uploaded quickly – it first had to go to various parts of the bureaucracy. And not all persons had access to the iServe. Possibly even the boss!
Excu-use me, when the first batch of three hostages escaped at 3.30pm, all the police had to do was show them a few of the media’s high-res photos of Monis and ask “Is this the guy in there?”
Monis’ Written Threat
Maybe the public was aware in 2015 of the content of Monis’ message to the authorities. It is hand-printed in blue ink and was read, at Monis’ insistence, by Tori Johnson (by phone or on radio, I am not sure.) I had not seen it until this week.
It is very clever. He says that there are three bombs – one in his backpack, one at Circular Quay (in other words, threatening the Opera House) and one on George Street, in the Sydney CBD. (This of course led to an evacuation of workers from many offices.)
The bombs will be detonated by his two friends if Monis’ demand for a debate with Tony Abbott – the then Prime Minister of Australia – is not met. And will Monis have to phone the friends with instructions? No. They do not carry phones (so says the note) but will hear on radio. Isn’t that clever?
Could It All Be Fake?
My inclination is to think the siege of the Lindt Café was never a genuine terrorist operation. Since many other famous terrorist operations (and lone nutter shoot-outs) can be easily seen as false flags, I reckon this one is, too.
By that I meant that the event was scripted to result in greater surveillance, fewer civil rights, and possibly martial law.
Last week we saw that an event in Nice, France, has the caused French president, Francois Hollande, to extend by three months an emergency that was already in place. Usually such emergencies have the power to suspend many normal laws – at whose discretion I don’t know.
It is my suspicion that the Lindt Café Inquest will result in a cry of “police incompetence.” This will then cause Parliament to say that the Defence Forces would make a better overseer or “terrorist” incidents. Already there are rumblings of that in Canberra. Sort of a side door to martial law.
My recommendation is that we look more closely at “the real Monis” and see if we find something different than what the Inquest has so far found.
Here is the note written by Monis to be read out as an invitation to negotiate:
— Mary Maxwell will be attending the Inquest again this week. You, too, are urged to attend. Monday to Friday, 10am-4pm. Registration opens at 8.30am; bring photo ID.
Photo credit: supplied by the Inquest.