Sydney siege hostage killed by police bullet ricochet

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One of the two hostages who died during the siege of a cafe in Sydney Dec 15 fell to police bullets that ricocheted from hard surfaces into her body, one of the investigators of the incident said.

Katrina Dawson, a 38-year-old lawyer and mother of three, and cafe manager Tori Johnson, 34, lost their lives when the cafe was besieged by self-proclaimed cleric from Iran, Haron Monis.

“Ms. Dawson was struck by six fragments of a police bullet or bullets,” said Jeremy Gormly, counsel assisting the New South Wales state coroner in the investigations.

The spokesperson also said that Johnson was killed by Monis with a shot to the head.

“Mr. Johnson was made to kneel on the floor of the cafe by Mr. Monis,” Gormly said, adding “Mr. Monis simply shot him without further notice or warning in the back of the head.”

“The shot was witnessed by a police marksman who called it in,” he said, which “resulted in an immediate order to force entry of the cafe”.

Three hostages and an officer were injured in the police firing that followed.

Monis, an Irani refugee with a prior police record, was hit by 22 bullets fired by officers from the Tactical Operations Unit.

“The circumstances of these deaths raise issues relevant to the actual security and sense of security of the wider population and that demands a speedy response,” said state coroner Michael Barnes.

Barnes offered condolences to the families and friends of those who died, and said that though the investigation gave the impression of being very clinical and impassive, they had not forgotten the pain suffered by the people.

The investigation will focus on the details of the death, security matters related to Monis such as his vigilance, his parole and his mental health, as well as the possibility of him having terror links.

Barnes also said that much of the information would come from the hostages owing to the absence of CCTV cameras inside the cafe, though there are videos of what occurred outside.

The Australian government and the state of New South Wales are jointly investigating how Monis was able to access a gun, his records with the security agencies and the grounds on which he was granted bail in the case where he was charged with murdering his wife and charges of sexual assaults.

The police is also investigating the actions of its officers during the siege.

New South Wales Minister for Police, Stuart Ayres, had earlier said that the investigation would help to establish what really took place inside Lindt cafe, situated in the heart of Sydney, and also said that he was proud of the security forces’ work during the incident.

(IANS/EFE)