- Politics and Social Issues
Sydney Siege - the Hostages and Baby Katrina.
Christmas Joy and Heartbreak in Martin Place, Sydney.
It was a peaceful morning in Mid December. Just ten days to Christmas, holidays, parties, presents, and projects to finish at work before all that. Sydney Australia, was decked in traditional colors and Christmas carols were the music of the day. Martin Place is where everyone gathers for a meeting, a chat, a coffee, or to listen to the latest song and dance troupe performing for free.
But come 10 o’clock, all that joy vanished as the news shattered the airwaves. A gunman had taken over the Lindt Chocolate Café and was keeping staff and customers hostage. The front door had been closed.
Many listeners gave a shiver of alarm. Some wondered whether this was real. Others were pretty sure it could not be, not in Sydney, certainly not in Martin Place. But they kept the radio on and soon they too were convinced that the unthinkable had happened.
It was not much longer that many who worked around Martin Place were instructed by the police to leave their offices, their shops and wherever they were at the time and to go outside the perimeter that the police had cordoned off.
The radio chat hosts were agog with questions, part answers, rumors, and very few facts. It was the birth of The Sydney Siege.
Inside, staff of the popular Lindt Café and daily customers of the café, were in a fog of alarm and terror. This big man dressed in Arab style, holding a menacing shotgun was ordering them about and was not too concerned with who was who. Only that they do as he bid them – quickly and accurately.
Chris Kenny a journalist from the paper The Australian, had just left the café moments before and would eventually make a good guess of the numbers involved. It does not take long for the scene to be set by the Police Tactical Unit, and for the city to become immobilised and yet alert.
Inside the Café, the gunman used some hostages as his human shield while directing others to do whatever he ordered. He told his captive audience that he had more guns and a bomb in his backpack which he carried on his back.
He ordered two of the hostages to stand by a window and hold aloft a Shahada flag, black with white Arabic writing. The gunman had given the impression that he was representing ISIS. He directed the hostage Marcia Mikhael to ring a radio station and demand a live interview with the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. She also released a message on social media during the siege insisting that the demands of the hostage taker be met.
Abandoned to Face a Mad Gunman.
It became apparent later that the tactics employed by the authorities at the time,were set at not granting any of the gunman’s requests. But Marcia Mikhael was in the grip of fear and she could not contain her frustration when told that the Prime Minister was busy and could not give the gunman the time he wanted. She said "I don't care what [Abbott] is doing right now...I'm sure there's nothing more important happening in Australia...than the lives of the people in this café...” Marcia was angry and bitter about the lack of co-operation of the authorities to appease the gunman. She was convinced that they were being left to their own devices. When she came to her lowest point she asked the gunman if she could please call her children – to say goodbye.
Selina Win-Pe agrees adding “We truly felt we were responsible for our own safety, our own wellbeing. Finding ways to keep and stay alive. We truly felt we were alone, abandoned, like nothing was happening and we were being left here to die.”
Despite their expertise, the Tactical Unit, well trained as it is was, had hardly had any real life experience in similar situations. There were others who knew and understood Monis, who felt they could reach him and negotiate as he is likely to trust them. They offered to negotiate with Monis.
The Tactical Unit did not feel confident letting untrained negotiators do the work, and refused their offer.
Some Escaped the Horror in the Lindt Cafe.
It seemed that the police were planning to follow The Behaviour Change Stairway Model which would allow them to step up from a confrontational to a collaborative point where the issue would be resolved without any violence. Afterwards Ms Mikhael said that she did not see any signs of this plan in action.
“It was very hard, we had to beg for our lives,” Harriette Denny, said. She got in touch with her partner George who was waiting just outside. Harriette did not think she would be leaving this place alive. She turned to her colleague Fiona Ma and told her that she was pregnant, and she did not want the gunman to know. She had not even told her family yet! . Fiona became protective saying later on, “I wanted her out of there.”
Early that afternoon John O'Brien and barrister Stefan Balafoutis ran out the front entrance. Soon after an employee, Paolo Vassallo emerged via a fire exit at the side of the building. "I waited for him [Monis] to be a little bit distracted, then we made a move and I sat on the floor, turned onto my left side and then I crawled over behind the Lindt coffee sign," Mr O'Brien said. Mr O’Brien is 82 and he had already challenged the gunman once when still inside. He had told his captor that he was too old to lie on the floor as ordered.
Monis was angry. He declared that someone must die now. Somehow the group calmed him down
Julie Taylor and Katrina Dawson
Julie Taylor is a barrister at Eight Selborne Chambers and a colleague of Katrina Dawson, who died in the Martin Place siege. She and Katrina Dawson were close friends, now caught up in this dangerous place. Julie was one of those that had to appear in a video that Monis demanded be sent out to the media. Joel was forced to upload the videos [of other hostages' pleas] through his Facebook and YouTube account.
Despite the terror and the worry for her unborn baby Julie kept her head and she was one of the six who ran out of the terror zone, shortly before the end of the siege came on the morning after. Her baby is due to be born soon.
Jarrod Finds a Knife And Two Girls Escape.
Jarrod Hoffman, just 19, kept cool and was alert to the mood changes. When his manager told him to lock the café door mid-morning, his mind quickly grasped that something was very wrong. He grabbed a Stanley knife as he passed through the kitchen and later on passed it on to his mate Joel Herat. He already had one in his own pocket where he had put it earlier that day when cutting up cardboard boxes.
He sidled up to Joel and they talked of a possible strike on Monis. But it was difficult to assess their chances against a big man with a bomb and a rifle pointed straight at one or more hostages. So they watched and waited.
It was a little more than an hour later, when another two slid away. This time it was Jieun Bae and Elly Chen. They must have felt that they had escaped a horrid fate, possibly death. The look of terror etched on their faces said it all.
Jarrod and Joel Plot.
Monis got angry and again threatened to shoot someone. Jarrod was quick to interject with “The police didn't help them – they just ran out” Somehow that seemed to appease Monis who had taken a shine to the youngster and to Fiona Ma, who like Jarrod kept a straight face while helping the others on the quiet. They appeared ready to please him, but both of them were actively working with the other hostages. They coolly went about preparing sandwiches and serving Monis and the captives as if they were their usual customers at the Café. They acted calmly and may even have looked submissive to Monis, but their minds were working overtime, noting, assessing, doing what they could for themselves and the others.
The gunman appeared antagonistic to Tori Johnson, the manager. Many have related that it was obvious to them that Tori was concerned for them, but he did nothing to upset Monis.
According to Joel, Monis was controlling and erratic in his moods. He would be nice for a bit, trying to win the captives over, trying to explain his requests, yet suddenly turn authoritarian.
Joel Herat, 21 has told his family that Monis was starting to herd the frightened hostages into separate groups inside the Lindt cafe, raising their fears even further.
Siege Comes to a Climax.
It was getting close to 2am on the day after, that Monis brought the groups dispersed throughout the café closer to him. Six hostages, talking in hushed tones came to the conclusion that they were not going to survive until the morning if they did not do something. They knew they had to make a break for it. They positioned themselves so that Joel and Jarrod kicked down the [internal] door, which leads to the barristers' chambers, and then the moment they busted that door down, they all ran, with shots ringing in their ears.
The angry Monis turned on the few now left. He barked at Tori “Manager, come over here” he said. No doubt he could hear the noises that accompanied the storming of the building. He fumbled a little and reloaded his gun. Tori avoided aggravating him and did as he was told. In a split moment, the gunman had shot him in the back of his head.
These people had only been thrown together for less than 24 hours, but emotions were heightened to a sharp pitch, and to see Tori gunned down mercilessly was and still is a nightmarish image seared into their memory bank.
Next moment all hell broke loose with flashes of light and shotguns raining over the supine hostages. First to go was Monis and those who saw it still grimace at the sight.
It all stopped as quickly as it started, and paramedics rushed in to help the hostages.
Katrina Dawson was not moving at all. She was rushed to hospital with the paramedics working feverishly to keep her alive. It did not work. Her three children had lost their mother.
Tori was beyond help and the gunman was obviously not alive.
Others had some injuries and were carried out and taken to hospital.
Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson.
The families that had been gathered in a separate room of the building were given news as they unfolded.
The families of those who had died were taken aside to be given the news quietly. But the others soon recognised their cries of anguish.
One family member remarked to the media with great feeling: "It was the saddest thing I have ever heard,"
Katrina Dawson honored by Julie Taylor.
Julie Taylor was 19 weeks pregnant at the time of the siege. She was caught up in the siege together with her good friend Katrina Dawson, both of them barristers.
Katrina did much for the young Julie during those awful hours. Mons had early on in the day singled her out to appear on U-Tube voicing his demands.
She managed to flee from the cafe just before the police ran in amidst a thundering confusion of noise and flashing light. Katrina died then.
Julie Taylor named her baby girl Katrina in honor of her dear friend.
Image 3 http://s2.hubimg.com/u/12323997_f260.jpg - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Place_hostage_crisis
Image 7 http://www.latercera.com/multimedia/galeria/2014/12/683-35172-7-australia
© 2015 Marie L Boler