A mother of three who died during a siege at a Sydney cafe last month was killed by a police bullet or bullet fragment, an coronial inquest heard today.
Katrina Dawson, a 38-year-old barrister, was hit by six ricocheting police bullets or fragments as officers stormed the Lindt cafe in the early hours of Dec. 16, Jeremy Gormly, the counsel assisting the inquest, said in his opening statement. The other hostage who died, cafe manager Tori Johnson, 34, was ordered to kneel before being shot in the back of the head by gunman Man Haron Monis, Gormly said.
Monis, a self-proclaimed Islamic cleric from Iran, was also killed in the closing moments of the 16-hour siege. Authorities are probing why the 50-year-old gunman was free on bail and not on a watchlist, despite his history of violence and extremist sympathies. He was awaiting trial on a string of charges including being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife, and had warned that Australia faced an attack for sending troops to Afghanistan.
Before taking hostages, the gunman ordered chocolate cake and tea at the cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place, Gormly said. He then called Johnson over to his table and ordered him to lock the door.
In a call that Johnson placed to emergency services at 9:44 a.m. on Dec. 15 from the cafe, police were told that Australia was under attack from Islamic State and that radio-controlled bombs had been placed in Martin Place and Circular Quay. There were no such devices, Gormly said.
Monis hadn’t been in contact with Islamic State before the siege, Gormly told the inquest.
He’d fired five shots from a sawn off pump action shotgun and appeared to be in the process of re-loading when he was killed by police bullets, Gormly said.
New South Wales state Coroner Michael Barnes told the inquiry that at times security concerns may override the need for transparency in the proceedings.
“Rarely have such horrifying events unfolded so publicly,” Barnes said. “We will need to rely on our reason and keep our emotions in check.”
The inquest was adjourned after opening statements.