The Martin Place Siege Remembered, A Year On From Man Monis' Lindt Cafe Attack Which Left Two Dead

15/12/2015 8:41 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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FILE - In this Dec. 15, 2014 file photo, Bae Jie-un, a staff member of a Sydney cafe and one of the hostages, runs to armed tactical response police officers for safety after she escaped from a cafe under siege in Sydney, Australia. Bae and her colleague told Seven Network television in paid interviews broadcast Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015, how Bae quietly unbolted an internal door to escape the cafe without gunman Man Horan Monis noticing.(AP Photo/Rob Griffith, File)

A year ago, Man Haron Monis walked into the Lindt cafe in Sydney's Martin Place and ordered tea and cake. He would not leave the cafe alive. Nor would cafe manager Tori Johnson or lawyer Katrina Dawson.

One year on from the Sydney siege, as Monis held 18 hostages inside the cafe for 17 hours, the harbour city is today reflecting on how our society has changed since that day. Premier Mike Baird and NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione visited the cafe on Tuesday morning.

"Today Sydney comes together with a heavy heart," Baird told media outside.

"We'll remember the great evil that came against them but at the same time we reflect that the hostages and others who went through the trauma are still going through the trauma."

"I want to say thank you to this city."

A sign inside the Lindt cafe announced that all takings from the day would be donated to Beyond Blue and the Katrina Dawson Foundation, in memory of the two hostage victims of the siege.

On December 15, 2014, as Monis sipped his tea and chewed his cake, he steeled himself for what he was about to do. After moving to a table with a view of the whole cafe, he asked to see the manager. Johnson walked over and sat with Monis around 9am. Other employees said Johnson appeared stressed. It was at this point Johnson called over another worker to tell her what was about to happen:

“I need you to go get my keys from the office and lock the doors. We’re closed. Everything is ok. Tell the staff to be calm.”

NSW Coroner Jeremy Gormly told an inquest into the siege the details of how the 17-hour stand-off unfolded. In his statement of January 29, Gormly told how Monis then pulled on a vest and bandanna, stood up, produced a pump action shotgun and told the 18 people inside the cafe at the time, "This is an attack, I have a bomb".

It was at this point Monis forced his hostages to hold up a flag with Islamic writing, prompting widespread reporting that the flag was the sigil of terrorist organisation ISIS.

The Sydney siege marked a turning point in Australian society. The #sydneysiege hashtag dominated the country's social media feeds for the duration of the incident. As information was discovered, shared, re-shared and -- in some quarters -- garbled or misreported, some used the platform to debunk fears or misreporting.

Monis claimed he had planted "devices" around Sydney, issuing numerous demands as he held his hostages; to speak to Prime Minister Tony Abbott live on radio; to have an ISIS flag delivered to him (as the flag he had, known as the Shahada, was not connected to the terrorist organisation); for the hostages to make 000 calls or videos to post to their social media profiles, announcing the incident as an "attack"; to speak directly to some media outlets.

Police swarmed to the cafe; tactical operations, snipers, hostage negotiators and other specialist units moved into position... and waited.

Monis told hostages and police he had a bomb in his backpack, keeping fingers off police triggers as they could not risk detonating any potential device on Monis' person. No such bomb was found in his backpack.

As the siege wore on, as media covered the incident in excruciating detail and further rumours ran wild -- that a bomb had been reported at the Sydney Opera House, that Sydney airspace had been shut down -- Monis and the hostages grew weary. Spotting opportunities, a small group of hostages escaped midway through the day.

Around 2am, growing frustrated, Monis ordered Tori Johnson to kneel on the floor. Coroner Gormly said Monis then shot Johnson in the back of the head, the blast from his shotgun prompting waiting police to storm the building. As they threw flash-bang devices into the cafe, Monis was shot dead and Katrina Dawson was killed by a ricocheting police bullet.

The remaining hostages fled, running into the arms of police waiting outside.

Responses to the siege ranged from the heartwarming, such as the #illridewithyou hashtag to support Muslim Australians in the wake of the attacks and the sea of flowers that spontaneously swelled in Martin Place after the siege ended...

sydney siege

... to the not-so-very good:

A year on from the siege, several survivors have spoken of their ordeal. Not long after the siege ended, survivor John O'Brien -- one of the first to escape the cafe -- spoke to the ABC.

On Tuesday, the family of Katrina Dawson released a statement to media.

Sydney will hold memorial events for the siege on Tuesday. A public memorial is scheduled at Martin Place at 8pm. Baird previously said the ceremony would "end with a lighting display on the Lindt Cafe, which will be repeated for five nights, and which movingly captures the spirit of this city one year go."

On Tuesday morning, he described the ceremony as "a reflective ceremony" and called it "beautifully prepared."

"It will show many things we saw on that day reflected in images. Those images will will show that, when this city was challenged, when confronted with the sort of evil that came, [Sydney] came together as one and responded as any city should, in love and peace," Baird said.

A year ago, in the face of evil, we saw a remarkable outpouring of love and compassion as flowers flooded Martin...

Posted by Mike Baird on Saturday, 12 December 2015

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