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Sydney Siege Survivor Says Police Ignored His Information After Escaping

Paolo Vassallo told tactical response officers that they needed to act first.

22/05/2017 10:32 PM AEST | Updated 22/05/2017 10:32 PM AEST
ABC Four Corners
"I told them basically, 'what are you guys doing? He is gonna shoot someone'."

For the first time, survivors of the 2014 Sydney siege have shed light on their experiences during the 17-hour ordeal and expressed their concern about how police handled the incident.

In an ABC Four Corners investigation Paolo Vassallo, who was one of the 18 hostages held by siege gunman Man Haron Monis in the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place on December 15 and 16, said he was not listened to by police after making his escape.

Instead, he claims a tactical response officer later told an inquest investigating the events that Vassallo had told police that wires were seen coming from Monis' backpack, suggesting a bomb may have been present during the siege.

"Never, never, never came up in any conversation at all. Believe me. I never saw any wires at any time. Why they would bring this up and bring this up at the inquest?" Vassallo said.

"I had an interview with the police for many, many hours. If I had said that, why wasn't this passed on? Why wasn't this ever brought up? I have never mentioned any wires at any time in any conversation at all. It's simply not the case.

"I told them basically, 'what are you guys doing? He is gonna shoot someone'. Not to wait for him to shoot first. He had no plan of coming out alive, so I wanted them to be the first ones to take action, to give the people in there a chance."

Vassallo went on to say that, after managing to escape from the cafe, he was taken to the New South Wales Leagues Club and debriefed by police officers, but that the information he provided was not passed on. Information Vassallo believed was crucial to the operation.

"They should have used that as an opportunity to grab as much information of what was happening inside the cafe. And they didn't. They just simply didn't. And they didn't pass on the information," he said.

The survivor's comments come as the New South Wales Coroner prepares to present the inquest's findings into the siege on Wednesday, in relation to the motivations of Monis and any systematic failures that led to the deaths of hostages Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson, who were both killed in the ordeal.

As part of its investigation, the ABC reports that the families of Johnson and Dawson believe a psychiatrist who helped police negotiators on the day of the siege was too influential in informing the tactical response to the siege.

As part of the response formulated by police, Four Corners revealed that tactical officers decided to act during the siege only after "a hostage was killed or seriously injured."

Katrina's father Sandy Dawson told Four Corners: "[The psychiatrist] was supposed to be just an adviser to the negotiators. In fact, it seems that he was a lot more than that."

As part of the program, it was also revealed the psychiatrist, who remains unidentified, played down previous sexual assault charges laid against Monis as "acts of seduction".

"That is just outrageous and it really puts everything else into context again, what we are dealing with here, from the police side of things, right?" Katrina's brother Angus Dawson said.

"I mean, if... What can we as the public say if there's anyone in the police force and their advisers that use these crimes as, I don't know, not really crimes? It's... I'm speechless."

Part two of Four Corners' story on the Lindt Cafe Siege will air on the ABC on Monday, May 29, at 8.30pm (EST).

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