(L) Thomas Zinn, partner of Tori Johnson, and (R) Paul Smith, husband of Katrina Dawson
by Dee McLachlan
Sarah Ferguson produced two ABC Four Corners’ programs on the Lindt Cafe Siege. I have posted some extracts below:
SARAH FERGUSON: Welcome to Four Corners… The inquest spent a great deal of time trying to unravel the motivations of terrorist Man Haron Monis, a deluded and troubled individual.
And how it was that a man charged with accessory to murder and sexual assault could have been out on bail?
But the core task of the inquest was to investigate the deaths of the two uniquely gifted citizens, who lost their lives that day. Evidence drawn out at the inquest presents a picture of multiple systems failures, failures of procedure and of common sense.
Over the next two weeks, Four Corners will examine that evidence in detail.
A few minutes into the documentary:
SARAH FERGUSON: In the morning rush hour CCTV cameras caught a figure with a baseball cap and backpack striding through Martin Place… But when he entered the Lindt cafe Man Haron Monis presented at first as an ordinary customer. Then he asked to see the manager.
HARRIETTE DENNY, HOSTAGE: I just thought that perhaps the man was complaining but I didn’t get that immediate assessment because he was smiling.
Monis was smiling and nodding his head.
JARROD MORTON-HOFFMAN, HOSTAGE: When Tori called me over to come and speak to me and he was sitting down with Monis. And he looked visibly scared. And he asked me to go and lock the doors of the cafe.
SARAH FERGUSON: …Tori was forced at gunpoint to make a call to triple zero
(TRIPLE ZERO CALL) [9.45 am]
TORI JOHNSON: This is a message that I’m reading from someone who is standing in front of me. There’s bombs in three locations.
TRIPLE ZERO OPERATOR: Ok
TORI JOHNSON: I need to finish reading this message.
TRIPLE ZERO OPERATOR: Yes I understand that. Just hang on a minute.
TORI JOHNSON: Sorry, I have a gun in front of me. Australia is under attack by Islamic State. There are three bombs in three different locations: Martin Place, Circular Quay and George Street. Police should not come close to me or other brothers otherwise they will explode the bombs. Some hostages have been taken.
TRIPLE ZERO OPERATOR: Alright, well you just need to hang on a second. From the Lindt Chocolate Shop, is it?
TORI JOHNSON: That’s right.
TRIPLE ZERO OPERATOR: Alright, just stay with me on the line, please.
A call went out and the first respondent was Senior Constable Paul Withers.
SARAH FERGUSON: In the foyer of the cafe the first policeman on the scene crept towards the doors office staff emerged from the lifts – still unaware of the crisis – as the officer radioed in.
POLICEMAN: Traffic 389 urgent.
TRIPLE ZERO OPERATOR: 389
POLICEMAN: Radio I’ve got two female staff members with their hands up at the door.
Both of them very visibly distressed I can’t see any further around.
SARAH FERGUSON: The first policeman into the foyer was ordered to pull out.
But one observation he made had serious consequences.
He reported seeing a curled wire coming out of Monis’s back pack.
The mistaken belief that Monis was carrying a bomb would shape police command decisions for the whole day.
SARAH FERGUSON: The city around Martin Place was evacuated. At this time, Mick Fuller now NSW Police Commissioner was in command. Bomb squads were dispatched to the locations named by Monis. Police snipers and members of the police tactical unit were positioned around the cafe, now called “the stronghold”…
…At 11.15am Police commissioner Andrew Scipione and head of Counter Terrorism Cath Burn declared the siege a terrorist event. Specially trained counter terrorism officers took over the running of the siege. Assistant Commissioner Mark Murdoch replaced Fuller as Commander.
Police had already requested the army’s elite counter terrorism unit be put on standby. The Tactical Assault Group – or T.A.G. – was set up for armed intervention and hostage recovery in domestic terrorism events.
The highly-trained combat veterans created a mock Lindt cafe at their barracks on the edge of Sydney and immediately began rehearsing an armed entry to rescue the hostages.
The Defence Force sent liaison officers to Police Command who remained throughout the siege but the Tactical Assault group was never called to Martin Place. Tactical police handle hundreds of incidents a year but rarely use their weapons. Police strategy for these events is to contain & negotiate rather than to go in.
PAOLO VASSALLO: The police near the door I could hear them talking the whole time, could- couldn’t hear exactly what they were talking but I- I knew there was a group there.
At 12.30 officers around the cafe triggered a crisis inside. Monis ordered Jarrod to ring the police. Jarrod urges the Triple Zero Operator to get the police to move back.
JARROD MORTON-HOFFMAN: He called all the hostages around him to create like a human shield…
SARAH FERGUSON: Monis and the hostages expected police to storm the cafe in a rescue mission. But the police had decided to go in only in response to an emergency. Early on that meant if Monis fired his gun at the hostages. But during the course of siege the trigger was fixed at a much higher level. Police would only go in when a hostage was killed or seriously injured.
ANGUS DAWSON [Brother]: The idea that we had to wait for somebody to be killed ah or seriously injured before the police would act, was was staggering.
LOUISA HOPE: The first time I heard that evidence I was sitting calmly in the courtroom and inside my head was exploding with that can’t possible be the case… I can’t fully express how shocking that news was to me.
JANE DAWSON: It’s outrageous. It’s outrageous…
JARROD MORTON-HOFFMAN: I don’t understand why you would wait until someone died before entering the cafe…
ROSIE CONNELLAN: I just can’t forgive people for that trigger. I’ll never be able to understand how you can make a calculated decision that you wait for someone to die. It’s just beyond me.
The documentary continues:
SARAH FERGUSON: …Just before 12pm detectives at Parramatta Police Station, recognized Monis in the news footage. They knew exactly what he was capable of. Homicide Detective Melanie Staples had investigated Monis for murder… The detective uploaded intelligence and psychological profiles describing Monis as a narcissist with extremist views who had described himself as a terrorist.
It would take more than 3 hours for the identification of Monis to reach siege commanders. [Really?]
The program then discuss the letters he wrote to the families of Australian soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and his part in the murder of his ex-wife.
SARAH FERGUSON: Within months of being bailed Monis was arrested again and charged with more than 40 counts of aggravated sexual and indecent assault. Again, he was bailed.
The circumstances of Monis’ release from jail are more evidence of the systemic failures that left this dangerous man free to go on his Lindt Cafe rampage.
In a series of hearings lawyers for the DPP misunderstood the nature of the murder charges against him and missed the crucial fact that the crimes had been committed when Monis was already on bail for sending the abusive letters. That fact alone would have made bail unlikely.
Homicide & sex crimes detectives argued strongly for Monis to be returned to prison to await trial. But at the final hearing in October just weeks before the siege a solicitor for the DPP said police did not oppose bail.
SANDY DAWSON: The fact that the DPP didn’t oppose bail was extraordinary. But what was even more extraordinary was they tried to have any consideration of bail, excluded from the inquest.
When a lot of the documents came in from the DPP they were very heavily redacted… I mean it was just extraordinary.
Then a focus on the psychiatrist.
SARAH FERGUSON: In forming their strategy, senior commanders relied heavily on the opinions of a psychiatrist brought in to advise the negotiators. Like so many others at the inquest his identity was suppressed.
SARAH FERGUSON (QUESTION): Did you get the sense that his um his views were influential?
SANDY DAWSON: I think they were very influential. They were certainly they certainly influenced the negotiation cell because he was supposed to be just an adviser to the negotiators. In fact, it seems that he was a lot more than that.
THOMAS ZINN: The main issue for me is that the psychiatrist part of the negotiating team, he was quite unfamiliar with the subject of Islamic State.
SARAH FERGUSON: By 3PM Monis’ identity was finally confirmed at siege command. In the first crucial teleconference about Monis at 3.35pm, the psychiatrist told commanders Monis was not a bona fide terrorist. Unaware of the recent call to arms by Islamic state, he asserted “there were no signs of ISIS involvement” or “ISIS methodology”.
The psychiatrist said Monis was “grandstanding”. Siege commander Assistant Commissioner Mark Murdoch formed the view that Monis was bluffing and would not harm the hostages.
ANGUS DAWSON: When the psychiatrist declared that that Monis wasn’t a terrorist, it just seemed like we were in the twilight zone where we had the Counter Terrorism Unit in charge and yet we had the psychiatrist declaring that the perpetrator wasn’t a terrorist.
I mean what was going on? [What was going on?]
By now the hostages had been held captive for 6 hours. Then some hostages escape.
SARAH FERGUSON: Paolo ran into the tactical police.
PAOLO VASSALLO: I told them basically, what are you guys doing? He is gonna shoot someone. Not not not to wait for him to shoot first…
SARAH FERGUSON: One of the tactical officers – known as ‘officer B’ claimed at the inquest Paolo had told him there were wires sticking out of Monis’s back pack, which would have been confirmation of a possible bomb.
PAOLO VASSALLO: Never, never, never came up in any conversation at all, believe me. I never saw any wires at any time, why they would bring this us up and bring this up at the inquest. I had an interview with the police for many, many hours… I’ve never mentioned any wires at any time in any conversation at all….
They should have used that as an opportunity to gather as much information [that he was prepared to kill] of what was happening inside the cafe and they didn’t. They just simply didn’t and they didn’t pass on the information…
SARAH FERGUSON: The psychiatrist listened in on the hostage debriefs. At the inquest, he said he didn’t take Paolo’s threat assessment seriously. He said Paolo “was highly excited” – and “didn’t listen to him terribly much because he was babbling…”
PAOLO VASSALLO: For him to make all those ah accusations about myself, it’s completely wrong and maybe the police psychiatrist is upset because everything I said, was spot on.
I said if you don’t – not to wait, he will shoot. That’s what will happen, don’t wait for this guy.
The program moves on to the Deputy Police Commissioner Cath Burn’s press conference.
CATH BURN (15 DECEMBER 2014): We do have this situation in hand at the moment. We have our police negotiators on site they are some of the best in the world and we are very fortunate that we have these police dealing with the matter at the moment. And a peaceful resolution will be what we are working towards.
(QUESTION: you talk about negotiators, does that mean police have made contact with the gunman or gunmen?)
CATH BURN (15 DECEMBER 2014): Police negotiators have had contact and they continue to have contact and we will work through this as we do with our negotiators, it might take a bit of time but we want to resolve this peacefully.
SARAH FERGUSON: Burn’s statement was misleading. No direct negotiations ever took place during the entire siege.
More on the secret psychiatrist.
LOUISA HOPE: …The psychiatrist repeatedly described the sexual assaults of frightened women as acts of seduction. Hearing his testimony was one of the hardest days for the families.
JANE DAWSON: It was an affront. The psychiatrist doesn’t even have an understanding of what violence against women is.
THOMAS ZINN: That is just outrageous and it really puts everything else into context again who we’re dealing with here from the police side of things, right? …I mean if, what can we as the public, if there’s anyone in the police force and their advice is that we view these crimes as… not really crimes?
It’s, I’m speechless.
SARAH FERGUSON: At 6.30 Cath Burn appeared again, expressing confidence in police strategy.
CATH BURN: This is a very very well tested system of negotiation that we use, it is world class, and it might take a little bit of time but the safety of those people inside is what is paramount. We are in contact and we will continue and we will continue, and the aim is this peaceful resolution.
SARAH FERGUSON: In those terrible final minutes of the 2014 Lindt siege, café manager Tori Johnson was murdered by the terrorist Man Monis. Another hostage Katrina Dawson was killed by police gunfire in the fatally flawed rescue attempt.
…By late afternoon, 5 hostages had escaped, 13 remained… [and] Monis continued to force the hostages to make his demands via the media. Always in the name of Islamic state…
JARROD MORTON-HOFFMAN, Hostage: It was frustrating because you’re in the middle of a, you’re in the middle of this battle between two parties and you’re the one it’s your life at stake not theirs but they’re not changing the way that they’re approaching the situation when it’s clearly not working.
About the negotiation. Incredible!
SARAH FERGUSON: The lead negotiator Peter had never handled a siege with hostages.
(JARROD MORTON-HOFFMAN CALL TO POLICE CONTINUED)
JARROD MORTON-HOFFMAN: Basically, the guy just says to me that if you don’t have the flag, don’t bother calling again.
NEGOTIATOR [not Peter]: If you don’t have the flag don’t call again?
JARROD MORTON-HOFFMAN: Yes, sorry I have to go
NEGOTIATOR: How did you get this number, Jarrod?
JARROD MORTON-HOFFMAN: This is the number you’ve been calling off. I have to go. Goodbye.
NEGOTIATOR: Ok, bye.
SARAH FERGUSON: It took 10 hours for police to install covert listening devices into the café. The equipment was plagued with technical problems – including recording delays of up to 7 minutes – and it was poorly monitored.
Monis and authorities. [Wonder if had ever met the psychiatrist before?]
SARAH FERGUSON: Monis had been monitored by state and federal police and ASIO for years.
The NSW Terrorism Intelligence Unit warned of his “potential to become a terrorist in the future.” …At 5 pm the day before the siege Monis reported to Campsie police station – a condition of bail for the murder charges he faced. He made his final inflammatory post that day, accusing Australia of terrorism and calling on Muslims to respond.
…In his final report the Coroner says both the intelligence agencies and the police missed Monis’s “malignant shift” from serial pest to terrorist. Intelligence sharing was part of the problem. [Really?]
The hostages continue to try help from the outside.
SARAH FERGUSON: At 7 pm Tori Johnson used a trip to the toilet to send an urgent text to café worker Paolo Vassallo. Paolo was one of the three men who’d escaped in the afternoon. He was now under observation in hospital.
PAOLO VASSALLO, Hostage: I got a text message, had a look at the phone and it was from Tori.
SARAH FERGUSON: The text said: (7.05pm) “Tell the police the lobby door is unlocked. He’s sitting in the corner on his own.”…
PAOLO VASSALLO: I was actually happy that I got this message, I thought great, he’s sitting by himself in a corner, this is the time the police are gonna go in. I basically yelled out and the detective came and he had a look at the message and he said we’ll pass it on.
SARAH FERGUSON: Siege commander Mark Murdoch got this critical information but didn’t act on it, he had already decided against a pre-emptive strike.
By now the head of the tactical team surrounding the café was urging Murdoch to change that approach and approve a rescue plan – known as a deliberate action or a DA.
…But Murdoch refused to authorize the plan
The program continues…
SARAH FERGUSON: At 10.30pm Monis told some of the hostages to call their families.
SARAH FERGUSON: At headquarters the daytime police commanders handed over control of the siege.
Assistant Commissioner Mark Jenkins assumed command. He would be there at the end. The head of the tactical team was still pushing his commanders for approval of a rescue operation. His team had drawn up a plan.
And the army’s elite tactical assault group had tested it at a mock-up of the Lindt café at their barracks.
Mark Jenkins refused to approve it.
SARAH FERGUSON: One of the key drivers of the refusal to act was the fear Monis had a bomb – as he had claimed at the beginning of the siege. But attempts to investigate that possibility were also mishandled. [Really?]
Police were sent to Monis’ address in Wiley Park but sat outside for hours. The order to search the house wasn’t given until 11.30pm – 12 hours after he was first identified.
DEPUTY CHIEF CONSTABLE SIMON CHESTERMAN: I think the searching his house was a critical enquiry that should have taken place earlier.
Calls to Negotiators Go Unanswered
SARAH FERGUSON: Monis was obsessing again about the Christmas lights. He told the hostages to call the negotiators.
In the middle of a long shift change, the negotiators number rang out 4 times.
LOUISA HOPE: Selina had made the call and the phone’s ringing, ringing, ringing, no answer, then she finally gets through to Triple 0 and they’re saying ring the negotiators and er Selina’s saying we tried, you know, they’re not answering.
(AUDIO OF SELINA WIN-PE CONVERSATION WITH POLICE)
(NEGOTIATOR): Hello Selina…how are you?
SELINA WIN-PE: I am going to get shot in fifteen minutes if you don’t have these lights switched off. You don’t know how close I just came. Could you please have these lights switched off? I have fifteen minutes.
SELINA WIN-PE: Or I’m going to get shot with a rifle.
(NEGOTIATOR): Selina I can assure you I’ve told the boss that you know we want to get those lights off, they’re getting looked at but they’re not…they’re council lights, they’re City of Sydney lights.
Police had high confidence in the negotiation [non-negotiation] strategy.
DEPUTY CHIEF CONSTABLE SIMON CHESTERMAN: The negotiation strategy wasn’t going anywhere.
It wasn’t achieving anything, it wasn’t adapting and the threat was increasing.
SARAH FERGUSON: At 1.43 Tori Johnson texted his family: “He’s increasingly agitated.
Walks around when he hears a notice (sic) outside with a hostage in front of him. Wants to release 1 person out of good faith. Tell police”
THOMAS ZINN: …we relayed that information immediately.
2 AM, Monis is disturbed by sounds in the rear of the café. More hostages take the opportunity to escape.
Monis FIRES A SHOT.
FIONA MA: Monis had let go of us instantly and he just disappeared into the café and he fired a shot.
JARROD MORTON HOFFMAN: I hear this crack and there’s just this like explosion of glass above the door that we’ve just run out of…
HARRIETTE DENNY: I said he shot at us. …I believe I even said it to the Police Officer he shot at us. [It was heard by all]
SARAH FERGUSON: The forward commander ordered them not to move.
Tori was ordered onto his knees. Monis loaded his shotgun and said: “The manager put your hand on your head. …you will not move.”
LOUISA HOPE: Tori was distressed, he was, he was crying and, then he knelt, he indicated with his gun where he wanted Tori to kneel, so Tori kneel, knelt down and put his hands on his head.
SARAH FERGUSON: Another sniper radioed in that Tori was on his knees. It’s unclear who heard the report.
…Wasn’t that a moment to go in?
MICK FULLER: Absolutely…
Monis FIRES A SECOND SHOT.
SARAH FERGUSON: Five minutes passed with Tori on his knees. Monis was heard to say: “don’t move, if you don’t move you are safe”. Monis then fired his weapon over Tori’s head.
LOUISA HOPE: He shot up into the, a window, up into the far-right corner. Tori fell forward with a thud and and he still had his hands behind his head, as he fell forward and then there was still time after that.
ROBIN HOPE: It was a horrible sound and to be so close, it was horrible.
THOMAS ZINN: He fell actually over from the trauma of the shot, probably thinking he was hit. And then he composed himself and put himself up on his knees again, into that same position.
[How did the police not assess that someone might have been assassinated? They had only planned to go in on loss of life. Did any of the police think that maybe Monis had shot someone? So why was this shot not the trigger? Why wait for visible evidence of death? Was there a stand off until someone was actually shot? And why did Monis give this warning shot over Tori’s head? ]
SARAH FERGUSON: Ten minutes had passed since Monis first fired his gun.
LOUISA HOPE: …Tori was kneeling up, not on his haunches or anything, just kneeling up with this hands on the back of his head.
SARAH FERGUSON: In the silence of that eerie moment the listening device picked up a mobile phone vibrating in the café. It was the negotiators trying to ring. Monis says “you be right everyone, you’ll be fine”. Those were the last words Tori heard.
Monis now FIRES A THIRD SHOT.
THOMAS ZINN: Monis stood behind him and shot him in his head…
THOMAS ZINN: I just don’t understand. I don’t understand anything of what the police decided to do or not do. And it is very evident that they cannot explain it themselves.
SARAH FERGUSON: Have they got anywhere close to giving you an answer that you can live with?
THOMAS ZINN: No, the opposite actually.
The, not all of them, but many of you know the responsible people of that day um have given evidence that is very surprising and devastating to the point where it was said: ‘If this situation would occur again, we would make the same decisions again’… And that just leaves me speechless.
The police threw flashbangs into the foyer, which let off 18 ‘explosions’ — stunning them, instead of Monis
The Police attack themselves.
The police entering through the foyer let off flashbang grenades — and stunned themselves instead.
SARAH FERGUSON: The other team had only metres to cross the foyer to reach the side doors.
But an officer threw a flashbang grenade at the closed glass doors.
It bounced off and detonated in front of the assault team.
DEPUTY CHIEF CONSTABLE SIMON CHESTERMAN: Tactically that’s wrong in terms of actually throw, trying to throw it through the glass and actually we had intelligence as well that that the door was open and we had intelligence as well that that door was open so it wouldn’t have been difficult just to pull the door ajar and roll a flashbang into the, into the room.
SARAH FERGUSON: The team leader stopped to adjust his goggles losing valuable seconds.
An officer opened the door as others threw more flashbangs – causing 18 explosions in the foyer.
DEPUTY CHIEF CONSTABLE SIMON CHESTERMAN: Ultimately there were a lot thrown into a confined space and they weren’t wearing any hearing protection.
The team that entered the front door shot Monis.
The Johnson and Dawson families were kept in the dark for 2 and half hours before being told that Tori and Katrina were dead.
THOMAS ZINN: The reason why they had to tell us was because a press conference was about to happen and the news were going to be announced publicly.
ANDREW SCIPIONE (December 16, 2014): I would like to commend the work of our police. I want to put out they have saved lives, they have saved many lives and to those men and women all that were involved we thank you.
Reflecting Back to 1996
This episode of waiting, complete incompetence and quashing attempts to resolve the situation, reminds me of the article we published about Port Arthur — and the assault on the Seascape Cottage.
April 28, 1996 — the day of the massacre in Tasmania. Several constables had taken cover in the roadside ditch, as “the” gunman was shooting wildly around them from the vicinity of the Seascape cottage.
In an attempt to halt the gunman’s actions, at 1630 hours one policeman twice appealed to his superior, “We have the Port Arthur gunman in sight. Permission to shoot.”
Several people that day heard on the (CB) radio, the senior police officer’s response:
“Permission denied this has to happen.”