Australian leader says deadly siege may have been ‘a preventable atrocity’

Australia's prime minister said Thursday that a deadly siege in a Sydney cafe may have been preventable, as the chorus of critics demanding to know why the gunman was out on bail despite facing a string of violent charges grew louder.

SYDNEY, Australia — Australia’s prime minister said Thursday that a deadly siege in a Sydney cafe may have been preventable, as the chorus of critics demanding to know why the gunman was out on bail despite facing a string of violent charges grew louder.

Man Haron Monis, a 50-year-old Iranian-born, self-styled cleric with a lengthy criminal history, burst into a downtown Sydney cafe on Monday wielding a shotgun, taking 17 people hostage. The siege ended 16 hours later when police stormed into the cafe to free the captives, two of whom were killed in a barrage of gunfire, along with Monis.

“This has been a horrific wake-up call,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott told Macquarie Radio. “This was an atrocity – it may well have been a preventable atrocity, and that’s why this swift and thorough review is so important.”

Abbott has ordered a sweeping government review of the siege and the events leading up to it, including why Monis was out on bail and how he obtained a shotgun despite the country’s tough gun laws.

Court documents detail Monis’ long history with the law. In 2011, Noleen Hayson Pal – his ex-partner and mother of their two sons – told police Monis had threatened her life. He was subsequently charged with stalking and intimidation intending to cause fear of physical or mental harm.

Pal testified in January 2012 that Monis said to her, “If I don’t get to see the boys more than I am seeing them now, I’ll make sure you pay for it – even if it means I have to shoot you.”

Pal said she feared he would carry through on his threat, noting that he’d once told her he had a gun license. She said he grew increasingly paranoid when “he started getting more into his Islamic activities,” insisting on drawing the blinds and shutting all the doors when he visited her house. She also accused him of slapping their eldest son in the face.

“He’s always saying to me that people are watching, people are hearing our conversations,” she testified.

Monis was ultimately found not guilty of the charge. A year later, Pal was stabbed to death and set on fire.

Police charged Monis’ then-partner, Amirah Droudis, with Pal’s murder, and charged Monis as an accessory. Both were out on bail on the charges when Monis launched his siege on the cafe. He was also facing 40 charges of sexual assault, and had been granted bail on those charges as well.

Monis was convicted and sentenced last year to 300 hours of community service for sending what a judge called “grossly offensive” letters to families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2009.

Three days before he began his siege, Australia’s highest court refused to hear his appeal of the convictions for sending the letters. The next business day, Monis walked into the Lindt Chocolat Cafe, a short stroll from the courtroom where the ruling was delivered.

“Just like about everyone else from the premier down, I was incredulous and exasperated at this,” Abbott said. “This guy has a long history of violence, a long history of mental instability, he has a long criminal record and obvious infatuation with extremism. It was extraordinary he was on our streets.”

New South Wales Premier Mike Baird concurred, saying, “I’m as outraged as everyone else.”

New South Wales Attorney General Brad Hazzard said he has asked the director of public prosecutions to review all cases where bail has been granted and where there are any similarities to Monis’ case.

“We have always believed that in this case, with this offender, he should have always been ‘bail refused,”’ New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said.

Katrina Dawson, a 38-year-old lawyer, and Tori Johnson, the cafe’s 34-year-old manager, were killed during Monis’ rampage. Officials have not said if they died in crossfire as police stormed in or were shot by their captor. Their autopsies were expected to be completed Thursday.

Martin Place, where the Lindt cafe is located, smelled and looked more like a fragrant field than a downtown plaza as people continued leaving thousands of bouquets of flowers to honour the victims.

Bravo Child, a poet holding a sign offering free hugs, said he’d hugged about 500 people after starting a Facebook campaign, Embrace in Martin Place. He said some people had laughed and others had cried while hugging him.

“When people sit at home and watch the TV there’s so much confusion and fear,” he said, adding he wanted to “bring some balance and some positivity.”

Several Muslim women wearing hijabs were also reaching out to people in the plaza.

Esha Deeb said she was there to represent the parent council of Arkana College, an independent Islamic school, and to pay her respects to the victims. While most people had been supportive, she said her group had encountered some negative reactions, including nasty comments and pushing. She said she was trying to turn the other cheek, as her religion suggested.

At least three of the hostages remained in Sydney area hospitals Thursday, according to hospital spokeswomen.

Just Posted

Insurers say Canadian weather getting hotter, wetter and weirder

Average number of days with heavy rain or snow across Canada has been outside norm since spring 2013

Women’s marches underway in Canadian cities, a year after Trump inauguration

Women are gathering in dozens of communities across the country today to… Continue reading

Red Deer councillor balks at city getting stuck with more funding responsibilities

Volunteer Central seeks municipal funding after being cut off by government

Olds chicken barn burns to the ground, no livestock harmed

More than 100,000 chickens were saved as fire crews prevent the blaze from spreading

WATCH: Setters Place grand opening in Red Deer

Red Deer’s Setters Place officially opened to the public Saturday afternoon.… Continue reading

Liberals quietly tap experts to write new paternity leave rules

Ideas include creating an entirely new leave benefit similar to one that exists in Quebec

Insurers say Canadian weather getting hotter, wetter and weirder

Average number of days with heavy rain or snow across Canada has been outside norm since spring 2013

Are you ready for some wrestling? WWE’s ‘Raw’ marks 25 years

WWE flagship show is set to mark its 25th anniversary on Monday

VIDEO: Thousands join women’s march events across B.C.

Today marks one year since the first Women’s March on Washington

In photos: Get ready for Western Canadian Championships

Haywood NorAm Western Canadian Championships and Peavey Mart Alberta Cup 5/6 start… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer city council debates cost-savings versus quality of life

Majority of councillors decide certain services are worth preserving

Got milk? Highway reopened near Millet

A southbound truck hauling milk and cartons collided with a bridge

Stettler’s newest residents overcame fear, bloodshed to come here

Daniel Kwizera, Diane Mukasine and kids now permanent residents

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month