Main door in middle. Philip Street on your left. The black doors are near girl in white jersey. On right, after 4th window, alcove, steps up to firewell.
by Mary W Maxwell
On December 15, 2014, as soon as I heard about the siege in Sydney – with no details such as the identity of Monis – I assumed it was a staged affair. But I certainly did not assume that any hostages or low-level police were “in on the joke.”
I do now.
A central aspect of the official story is that Monis was able to keep 18 people under his control on the basis that he threatened to shoot them. Granted, I myself may have gone to pieces if faced with such a scare, I don’t know. But 18 is a large number of people, and 16 hours is a long time to control them. Fact: there were three easy-to-use exits.
To state my new thesis: the siege story is unbelievable for two reasons related to doors. One, the hostages were able to escape; they were not physically “locked up.” Two, the police could have entered the French doors after Elly Chen opened them at 4.30pm. And they could have entered the main door with a swipe card (which I allege they were in possession of).
The Location of the Lindt Café
I will describe the three doors, based partly on my own “field research.”
Lindt Café is smack on the corner of two streets, Philip Street and Martin Place. There is an unusual feature of Martin Place; it slopes dramatically. A street on a hill.
Please pretend you have just had your coffee as a customer in the Lindt Café, and you walk out the main door. Your feet are on Philip St. Look to your right.
Go on down that way for a minute, on Philip Street. Hugging the Lindt Café building, on your right, you would pass a few of its windows, but you can’t see much through them as they are covered (permanently, I think) with big advertisements for chocolate candy.
The Fire Exit, aka the Flying-out Door
Soon you come to two black doors. The first one I will call the Flying-out door. If you were able to pass through that door you’d be in the Lindt Café, but only in the candy-sales area. (You could proceed further in, to get to the tables-and-chairs area.)
The other black door, immediately after that black door, is a double-door fire exit. It’s operated from inside by pressing a bar – the standard type of legally mandated fire exit.
I now realize I made a mistake in saying, previously, that Paolo Vassalo exited from the “fire door.” I now think that fire door serves only the upstairs occupants of the building! Having now watched Channel 9’s footage of the siege, I see that Paolo “flew out” the first black door, which is why I am calling it the flying-out door.
On Channel Nine’s video we see him escaping, at around 3.30pm, with real force!
He literally bumps into cops who are standing outside the fire door. Note: the fire door and the Fly-out door are adjacent to each other, both are black. The architect probably did it that way so the Flying-out door can act as the Lindt’s private goods-delivery door, in addition to being a fire escape.
I Retract My Claim
By way of apology, I now say that when I looked at the video a week ago, and saw cops standing there, I mentioned that cops were huddled outside a door that “they could easily have entered.” The door was indeed standing open. (On the video you can actually read the words on the inside of the fire door “Do not obstruct.”).
I WRONGLY deduced that cops were able to simply enter that door and find themselves in the Lindt Café. Had they entered it, they would (I think) have found themselves at the bottom of stairs that lead up to higher floors, unrelated to Lindt. So it was never a way to get in and neutralize hostage-taker Monis.
I now ask: could they have entered the fly-out door? Possibly, but only if it was standing open. After Paolo flies out of there it appears (on video) to slam shut. I don’t know that it locked when he ran away, but because of theft, I assume Lindt Café would not leave such a door routinely unlocked.
Anyway, persons inside the café, including me on the day I went there (in September, 2016), could use that black door to “escape.” It’s not locked from inside.
The proof of the pudding is that one employee, Paolo Vassalo, did make his way out to Philip Street by that means. Oddly, he’s the only one of the total of 12 escaping hostages who used that door.
The Main Entrance
Now reverse your trip: walk back to the main door, by hugging the café building, this time with it on your left. You’re headed for the glass door at corner of Philip St and Martin Place (which automatically slides open). Before you actually go in, I ask you to peek down Martin Place, so you will understand that it is very sloping.
OK, now go in. A waitress will seat you. You order coffee, drink it, and leave. How leave? By those same, main-entrance glass doors. They open magically as you approach them, just like department store doors.
But just before you exit, please glance to your right and see the big green button on the wall. If people are still in the Café after hours, and management locks the door to prevent new customers coming in, anyone inside can press the green button and the doors will magically open.
During the siege, a total of only two hostages used that green button: John O’Brien (the 82 year-old) and Stefan Balafoutis (a lawyer). They went out together at 3.30pm, seconds before Paolo flew out. (Possibly he was imitating their successful get-away.)
It strikes me that Paolo was never in the loop, by the way. And according to Officer A’s testimony on July 25, 2016, Paolo said “You gotta go in. He’s going to kill everybody in there.” (For the record: I also feel sure Officer A is “innocent.”)
Walking Down Martin Place
So out you go, out the main door. Again, your feet are on Philip Street — but even the shortest turn to your left will cause you to be on the sloping Martin Place. Down the slope you walk now.
You are hugging the Café building on your left. You can count several windows. Can you see through them to gawk at the customers inside? Not easily, because they are high up. The deeper you walk down Martin Place, the higher those windows get. (Hostages hung a banner in those windows.)
OK. After four windows you come to a large alcove that includes a side-entrance to the Café. Or, should I say, you come to an entrance to all the offices in that building. A big, formal entry, typical of office buildings.
You need to walk up a few stone steps, and then you enter sliding glass doors, by the magic method to access the foyer.
(As will be mentioned later, police Team Charlie stormed in here at 2.15am. It is confusing but they call this the red door. There is nothing red about it, it’s a code by which cops indicate the four side of any offender’s stronghold as “red, green, white, and black.”)
The So-Called Red Door or Firewell, with French Doors
You are now in the lobby. Some call it the lift lobby, as there are two large elevators there. My guess is that the only Lindt customers who are likely to enter the Café from this area (rather than the main entrance) are ones who work on higher floors of that building. Many are lawyers.
Pretend you are looking straight ahead about to enter the lift (with the stone steps and glass door now behind you.) But then you think, nah, I won’t go up to my office yet; I’ll have coffee. So which way do you turn to enter Lindt Café? Why, left of course.
(I believe, from seeing a video of the lift lobby, that the glass French doors on the left are mimicked by glass door on the right side of the lobby, leading into the premises of another tenant. I didn’t actually notice it the day I was there. For the moment, pretend that “Giuseppe the Tailor” is in there.)
You walk into Lindt. To do so, you need not turn any handle. Nor is anything going to slide magically open for you. Rather, it is a pair of swinging doors and you just push either one. I call them French doors as they have several panes of glass in them.
Once again, you drink coffee. (Sorry, that’s a lot of coffee.) And now you want to leave. Easy. All I did to leave, was lean my shoulder gently on the French door and instantly found myself back out in the lift lobby.
Oh, but since there’s no handle, how does management lock it at night? As far as I could tell, there is only a large brass slip lock at the top of the door, which employees can push up into the frame of the door to prevent it swinging open.
Two waitresses used this door to escape at 4.30 pm: Elly Chen and Jaein Bay, nicknamed April. They say they did pull that slip lock down, and then ran out to Martin Place. (Note: a CCTV camera exists in the ceiling of that firewell, so there must be a record of their escape.)
Much later, in the wee hours — at 2.03am — more hostages escaped through those French doors. Namely, Jarrod Morton-Hoffman, Joel Herat, Julie Taylor, Harriet Denny, Viswakanth Ankireddy, Puspendhu Ghosh, and Fiona Ma.
The escape at 2.03 am
(That totals 12 escapees, leaving only six inside, two of whom died. The four who survived are: Selina Win Pe, Louisa Hope and her mother Robyn Hope, and Marcia Mikhael.)
What about a Swipe Card To Enter the Three Doors?
I have now finished talking about modes of escape. The other topic is : which entries could police have used to capture Monis?
I am not sure about the black fly-out door. It appears (from videos) to have a metal handle on the outside, and therefore probably a key-operated lock, no electronic stuff. If you are in Sydney please check and I will correct that if I’m wrong.
I do make the safe guess that the Main Entrance has a swipe card, for the simple reason that it has the green button, which is electronic in nature. I also venture to guess that Paul Vassalo would have normally carried the swipe card for that door in his wallet.
He arrived at the Café before 7am each day, to receive trays of muffins delivered by bakeries. How would he get in, if the manager happened to be late? Swipe cards are standard today.
Also Jarrod, a waiter, said in a reenactment on TV, that during the siege he went into the manager’s office and took a swipe card, with the idea maybe of pushing it under a door so police could use it. He never got around to doing that, however.
When he escaped at 2.03am, I suppose he could have handed it over but possibly he was too distressed to remember it.
It worries me that since Paolo Vassalo got out at 3.30pm (less than 6 hours into the 16 hour siege) police could have discussed swipe cards with him. They kept Paolo in their care (at hospital) till 7pm.
I feel the public must demand an explanation from police as to why this man, who knew the inside of the café intimately, did not provide a breakthrough in the siege by giving them his swipe card, and/or advise them about other ingresses.
As it finally happened, one team of police, known as Alpha, did storm in through the main entrance, after Tori Johnson was killed at 2.13am or so.
I believe they should have used a swipe card. Instead, they “breached” the glass door. I am stuck with the conclusion that this dramatic entry was for show, not for practical necessity. Correct me if I’m wrong.
The Firewell and “the Tailor Shop”
Now back to the Lift Lobby. Unfortunately, the Inquest usually refers to it as “the firewell.” No problem, just remember that it has nothing to do with the fire exit on Philip St (labeled by me as the flyout door). This one, involving French doors, is on Martin Place.
Let’s talk about Giuseppe the Tailor, who (fictionally) occupies a shop that you can enter from the lift lobby. The police sketch of the lobby indicates that “Giuseppe’s” shop has French doors, too. I mean it’s not a fiction that someone works in there; I am trying to make it visual with a name.
I argue that during the day the police could have stationed themselves in the tailor shop. What was stopping them? At Giuseppe’s they would have been able to decide when to rush into the café and save the people.
(I acknowledge the fact that individual cops are not allowed to use initiative. I envision the boss being there, telling them when to hop to it.)
When Elly and April escaped at 3.30pm, they ran through this lift lobby. I assume that since it was business hours, they did not encounter a locked glass door. If they did, they would probably have realized that a sort of green button (actually it’s black) was available. Since they were employees of the café, they must have been told about such things.
Jarrod, however, shows us, in a TV reenactment, that when he led a group of several hostages out this firewell at 2.03am – with Monis coming after them and firing a warning shot upwards – he, Jarrod, did encounter a locked glass door. (I mean the outer one, after he traversed the French doors).
He tried to pry it open with his fingers, but then used the black button to get out, with 5 others. Fiona Ma exited a bit later. (I don’t know why she delayed.)
As far as I can see on a video that was played in court, Team Charlie did not have to do any breaching to get through the firewell’s sliding glass door at 2.13am. Thus I postulate that they had a swipe card and used it. (Recall that it was locked a few minutes earlier when Jarrod black-buttoned his way out.)
Jarrod does not mention that he was the source of the swipe card, so it is my belief that the police had one. Don’t police or the Fire Department have such cards for every building?
The video of Team Charlie’s storming in through the firewell did not entail any breaching of the French doors. They sure made noise with flash bangs, but I’m guessing that their actual march into the Café was unimpeded.
If so, why didn’t their boss arrange for them to do it much earlier? They could have waltzed over from Giuseppe’s, after 4.30pm.
Surprisingly, even when Monis gave his first warning shot at 2.03am, the police declined to burst in. Team Charlie was stationed on Martin Place, down the hill towards Elizabeth St.
Team Alpha, with Shieldie, waited for action down in the vehicle bay on Philip St, a short way past the fly-out door.
I supposed I will be hated for saying that the drama was not “real,” but if you can give me a better interpretation of the egresses and ingresses, please do.
If you can’t, then God help us all.
Here is the Channel 9 video. See Paolo fly out at 1.38 minutes:
Mary W Maxwell has just completed a book entitled “Inquest.”
Photo credit: resources2.news.com.au